By 2025, an increasing number of data centre operators in the Asia Pacific region will be migrating to the cloud or relying more heavily on managed services, as the sector's ability to build new on-premises capacity to meet post-pandemic demand is hampered by a shortage of skilled workers.
According to ABB research conducted in collaboration with Data Center Dynamics (DCD), the current 50/50 split between data centre equipment housed on-premises versus co-location or cloud-based solutions is set to change over the next four years, with more than two-thirds of senior industry experts (69.1 per cent) predicting that this will shift to only 25% on-prem and 75% in colo or cloud in the near future.
The reason for this shift in thinking may lie in the industry’s struggle to build new capacity. More than 40 per cent of people asked by ABB said that data centre construction in APAC hadn’t been able to keep up with demand over the past 12 months, as the perfect storm of an unpredicted surge in demand and a reliance on traditional construction practices held progress back.
Three out of four respondents (76 per cent) agreed that business transformation in APAC needed hyperscale to progress, but the research revealed that these plans for growth are being hampered by a number of issues which have been created, or made worse, by the pandemic.
These include supply chain resilience (82.2 per cent), health and safety precautions (77.3 per cent) and access to specialist sub-contractors and trades (74.2 per cent) as the biggest areas of concern for the sector. The availability of specialist skills also tops the list of factors which will have the greatest effect on data centre construction costs over the next three years, with 44.6 per cent of respondents mentioning it as a key issue.
The Asia Pacific region's skills shortage mirrors trends in Europe, where 42% of data centre operators believe there is insufficient skilled labour to meet increased capacity requirements across the continent. Over 80% of European companies say labour shortages have impacted them, and more than 70% believe the pandemic has exacerbated the industry's skills shortages.
Kent Chow, ABB’s Data Center Segment Leader for Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa Region said: “Our research shows that the data centre industry in the APAC region is trying to expand and respond to growing data demand but being held back by a shortage of suitably skilled people. This is an issue the industry has been facing for many years and it can have big consequences for operators, from extra costs to delays in project delivery times
“Attracting talent to the industry, providing training and upskilling all takes time so one way operators can help themselves in the short to medium term is to utilise smart solutions for the installation and maintenance of power equipment. This can take the pressure off existing staff and speed up installation and commissioning times to get new data centres open faster.”
The continued high demand for data centres combined with the lack of specialist sub-contractors and trades is driving many data centre operators to increase their offsite construction. To support data centre operators ABB has developed a number of solutions that limit site work – both commissioning and construction - which can significantly improve speed to deployment.
These include plug and play prefabricated or packaged solutions that can reduce deployment time by up to 50 per cent as they are quicker and easier to place and commission onsite. eHouses for example are prefabricated and pretested prior to being transported to site. As these solutions are fully integrated and debugged prior to shipment, fewer workers are required on-site and installation and commissioning time is reduced significantly.
ABB can also support on-site service needs. ABB can support data centre operators with service centres in more than 52 countries and over 2,600 certified service experts worldwide with installation and commissioning, maintenance agreements, and repairs. In addition to this on-site support, ABB can provide remote assistance through the power of augmented reality with RAISE. RAISE connects a field operator directly with an ABB exert reducing time to repair and maintain critical data centre equipment.