Outages and Understaffing Top Data Center Challenges

Outages and Understaffing Top Data Center Challenges

Data centres are working to improve the resiliency of their physical infrastructure, avoid increasingly costly outages, and hire skilled staff in a highly competitive market. 

Meanwhile, many forget environmental metrics, even as they face sustainability requirements. Here are some highlights from Uptime Institute’s annual data centre survey.

Server Update Cycles are Longer

Server lifespan is increasing, often exceeding the vendor-recommended five years. The study reveals that 52% have surpassed this figure, in contrast to 34% in 2015.

There are multiple reasons for this, and the availability of semiconductors is one factor. Component shortages resulted in higher prices and longer lead times, and “smaller organizations with less purchasing power were often required to delay non-essential upgrades. The trend may also reflect a slowdown in server energy efficiency gains. 

New IT hardware generally improves data centre efficiency, but Uptime suggests those incentives are slowing. Generational changes, particularly in Intel-powered servers, which make up the bulk of the market, are delivering much lower power and performance gains than before.

Increase the cost of interruptions

There are some encouraging metrics on data centre outages, but the report warns that they can be misunderstood. In general, there has been an improvement. In 2022, 60% of operators said they had an outage in the last three years, up from 69% in 2021 and 78% in 2020.

Additionally, fewer managers reported major or severe data centre outages. Historically, outages considered serious represent approximately 20% of all outages. In 2022 it fell to 14%.

Despite fewer outages per site and less frequent severe outages, the total number globally grew yearly. On the positive side, the centres ‘ global footprint grew slower than the frequency of these shutdowns.

Another thing is clear, interruptions are becoming more expensive, and the number of outages involving more than a million dollars is increasing. 25% say so, compared to 15% in 2021. 

Another 45% of respondents said they ranged from $100,000 to $1 million. This can be attributed to various factors, ranging from inflation to penalties to labour or replacement parts. 

But the most important reason is the growing dependence of corporate economic activity on digital services and the data centre.

Power issues remain the leading cause of blackouts.

In 2022, 44% of respondents said energy was the primary cause of their organization’s most recent incident or outage. The following most common causes were network issues, cooling failures, IT system issues, and external server issues such as SaaS, hosting, and cloud providers.

Staff problems worsen

As the number and size of data centres worldwide continue to grow, so do vacancies. Qualified personnel requirements worldwide will be 2.3 million in 2025, down from two million in 2019.

Staffing shortages affect almost all data centre jobs globally. Much of the existing workforce is ageing in mature data centre markets such as North America and Western Europe. 

Many professionals expect to retire around the same time, leaving data centres with a shortfall. of staff and experience. 

The low visibility of the sector often offsets recruitment efforts by job seekers. “Efforts to bolster talent pipelines by attracting career changers to the data centre industry are still in their infancy.”

In the 2022 survey, 53% of data centre operators reported difficulty finding qualified employees in 2022, up from 47% in 2021 and 38% in 2018. Additionally, 42% reported problems with staffing, in most cases, to the competition. That’s a significant jump from just 17% in 2018.

Lack of monitoring of environmental data

According to Uptime, most respondents report overall data centre power usage and power usage effectiveness (PUE), but many still need to track critical environmental metrics. For example, most data centre operators expect to be soon required to report carbon emissions, but many still need to prepare to comply.

Among those surveyed, 63% said they believe authorities in their region will require them to publicly report environmental data in the next five years. Yet, only 37% collect and report carbon emissions data (vs 33% in 2021), and only 39% currently say their water use (down from 51% in 2021). 

New laws, standards and requirements will force operators to address these gaps and establish more stringent sustainability tracking and reporting practices in the coming years.


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