As we propel forward into the digital age, the European data centre sector, currently valued at an impressive US$14.2 billion and expected to rise exponentially by 2028, is undergoing a significant transformation. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is at the forefront of this change, proving itself not as a mere trend but a necessity in the face of escalating demands for data processing and storage. JSA Media Consultant João Marques Lima offers a closer look.
The market has witnessed rapid growth over the past few decades, propelled by the advent of cloud computing, video streaming and the more recent emergence of 5G networks. These developments have fueled a surge in demand for data processing and storage capabilities. However, the traditional data centre infrastructure is struggling to support the next level of digital transformation promised by AI.
The integration of AI into data centres is redefining traditional networks, altering the functionality of these facilities and even shifting the geographical distribution of data centre clusters.
In the European Union (EU), the AI Act (AIA) is shaping the regulatory landscape for AI. This comprehensive regulatory scheme, although primarily designed for the EU, has a global impact, particularly in sectors like data centre operation, where AI systems are increasingly integrated.
The AIA’s extraterritorial impact varies across sectors and applications. Its provisions affect AI systems in regulated products around the world, demonstrating a clear “Brussels Effect”.
However, the EU’s global influence over online platforms may not be as substantial as policymakers suggest. Therefore, a more collaborative approach with other governments on AI governance would be beneficial.
The Economic Impact of AI: A Paradigm Shift
According to IDC, worldwide revenue for AI is projected to surpass US$300 billion by 2026, representing a 27% compound annual growth rate. This growth rate is more than four times the growth rate of overall IT spending over the same timeframe, indicating the significant economic impact of AI.
In the European data centre market, the rise of AI is causing a paradigm shift. AI-driven data centres offer numerous benefits, such as the ability to slash downtime, enhance overall system reliability, and translate into massive cost savings for organisations.
The integration of AI into data centre infrastructure also brings about a high cost in terms of processing performance and power consumption. Implementing an AI and Machine Learning (ML)-driven layer within traditional data centre architectures creates autonomous data centres that can optimise and perform generic data engineering tasks without human intervention.
AI-driven data centres improve event detection and prediction abilities, offering fast failure detection and triggering self-healing mechanisms. AI also provides a clear picture of app resourcing levels, allowing for nimble scaling to meet demand in real-time.
AI, Data Centre Architecture and Power
The need for new architectural designs is evident, considering the changing landscape of platforms, equipment design, topologies, power density requirements, and cooling demands.
Edge computing, which processes data closer to the source, is emerging as one of the most promising technologies for developing AI-driven data centres. This technology reduces latency and improves overall performance.
When combined with AI, it offers the potential to achieve real-time analysis and decision-making capabilities, making data centres capable of handling mission-critical applications in the future.
On the power front, AI applications consume significantly more versus traditional setups. High-performance processors required for AI need more power than traditional data centre processors.
Additionally, AI applications necessitate modifications for cooling technology to reduce downtime. This will lead to a rush to replace and install newer hardware. Tirias Research forecasts that generative AI data centre server infrastructure plus operating costs will exceed US$76 billion by 2028.
However, this comes with its own challenges as power consumption is set to grow and data centres are projected to account for 3.2% of electricity demand within the EU, according to CBRE.
The think tank says that although efforts have been made to reduce facilities’ impact through the use of excess heat and vertical farms, national power infrastructure in major markets is struggling to keep up, and recent spiralling energy costs are increasing the focus on consumption.
The Environmental Impact of AI
As AI demands more power, data centre operators must meet sustainability requirements and reduce greenhouse emissions. According to a study by JLL, the sector now accounts for up to 4% of greenhouse gas emissions globally. The market’s growth will be directly influenced by environmental, social and governance (ESG) requirements.
Modern data centres are addressing these problems by deploying, you guessed it, AI. Coupled with automation, IoT, and ML, AI is helping many operators design and build lean and smart data centres.
AI and robotics solutions not only help improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions, but also automate routine activities, reducing workforce requirements. As organisations across Europe begin to realise the potential of AI in data centres, we will see better energy management all across.
AI in the Job Market
The growing integration of AI in data centres also affects the job market in this sector. While AI reduces the need for certain manual tasks, it also opens up new opportunities for skilled workers. As data centres become more autonomous, the demand for AI and ML experts increases.
The transformation carried by AI on European data centres is and will be profound, influencing the regulatory landscape, economic implications, and the operational aspects of data centres.
As AI continues to evolve, so will the hosting landscape, embracing new technologies and strategies to meet the growing demand for data processing and storage, while addressing the environmental challenges that this growth entails.
The impact of AI on European data centres is profound, influencing the regulatory landscape, economic implications, and the operational aspects of data centres. As AI continues to evolve, the hosting landscape will also adapt, embracing new technologies and strategies to meet the growing demand for data processing and storage, while addressing the environmental challenges that this growth entails.
AI is indeed the new frontier in the European data centre market, bringing with it far-reaching implications for data centre development and demand. It’s clear that as AI continues to evolve, so too will the hosting landscape, as it embraces new technologies and strategies to meet the growing demand for data processing and storage, whilst also addressing the environmental challenges that this growth brings.