Survey: outages, data center staffing challenge

Data centers are striving to improve the resilience of their physical infrastructure, avoid increasingly costly outages and recruit qualified personnel in a competitive job market. Meanwhile, many are failing to track critical environmental parameters, even as they face impending sustainability demands.

Here are some of the highlights from the 12th Annual Uptime’s Institute Global Data Center Surveythat tracks trends in capacity, technology adoption and staffing.

Server refresh cycles are getting longer

Server lifespans are increasing, according to Uptime, and often exceed the vendor-recommended three to five years. In Uptime’s 2015 survey, 34% of respondents said they had kept their servers running for five years or more. In 2022, this figure has increased to 52%.

There are several reasons for this increase, according to Uptime. The availability of semiconductors is a factor. Component shortages led to higher prices and longer delivery times, and “smaller organizations with less purchasing power often had to delay non-essential upgrades,” the research firm reported.

The trend may also reflect a slowdown in server energy efficiency gains. New IT hardware generally improves data center efficiency, but Uptime suggests that these efficiency incentives are slowing. “Generational changes, especially in Intel-powered servers, which make up most of the market, are delivering much lower performance and power improvements than before,” Uptime wrote. “The supply of more efficient servers using alternative processors (based on AMD and ARM) is still limited.”

The cost of data center outages is rising

There are encouraging metrics regarding data center outages, but Uptime warns that they can be misinterpreted.

Overall, Uptime has tracked a steady improvement in the number of outages per site. In 2022, 60% of operators surveyed said they had had a breakdown in the last three years, compared to 69% in 2021 and 78% in 2020.

Another positive: Fewer managers reported serious or severe data center outages. Historically, outages rated serious/severe represent approximately 20% of all outages, according to Uptime. In 2022, this figure has fallen to 14%.

Despite fewer outages per site and less frequent severe outages, the total number of outages worldwide increased year over year. On the positive side, the frequency of outages has not increased as rapidly as the global footprint of the data center.

While outage metrics can be difficult to interpret, one trend is clear, according to Uptime: outages are becoming more and more costly. In particular, the number of breakdowns costing more than a million dollars is increasing.

Asked about the cost of their most recent outage, 25% of respondents said the outage cost more than $1 million in direct and indirect costs, a significant increase from 2021, when 15% reported outages of a million dollars. Another 45% of respondents in 2022 said their last outage cost between $100,000 and $1 million, up from 47% in 2021. According to the report:

“Why is the cost of breakdowns increasing? This can be attributed to a variety of factors, ranging from inflation, fines, service level agreement violations and the cost of labor, calls and spare parts – but the main reason is the growing dependence of business economic activity on digital services and on the data center. The loss of a critical IT service often translates directly and immediately into business disruption and lost revenue. »

Power issues remain the number one cause of outages

According to Uptime, onsite power issues remain the leading cause of significant outages on site. In 2022, 44% of respondents said electricity was the primary cause of the incident or outage that had the most impact on their organization.

The second most common cause was network issues, cited by 14%. Other notable causes include cooling failures (13%), computer system issues (13%), and issues at third-party vendors such as SaaS, hosting and cloud providers (8%).

Failed to backup applications in multiple cloud zones

There are also mixed messages on the cloud front. On the one hand, enterprises are increasingly confident about using the cloud for mission-critical workloads. In 2019, 74% of respondents said they would not place mission-critical workloads in a public cloud. In 2022, this figure has fallen to 63%. At the same time, the percentage of respondents who said they had adequate visibility into the resilience of the service provided by a public cloud increased from 14% to 21%, reports Uptime.

“Organizations are increasingly confident in using the cloud for mission-critical workloads, in part due to a perception of better visibility into operational resilience,” Uptime wrote. “However, other data suggests that cloud user trust may be misplaced.”

The problem is Availability Zones. An Availability Zone typically has redundant power and networking, and cloud providers recommend that users distribute their workloads across multiple Availability Zones in the event of a zone outage, according to Uptime. The data suggests companies aren’t doing this as diligently as they should.

Asked about the potential impact if a primary cloud provider experiences an outage in a single Availability Zone, 35% of respondents said it would cause significant performance issues or downtime, and 49% said that performance issues or minor downtime would be expected.

“This presents an obvious contradiction. Users seem more confident that the cloud can handle mission-critical workloads, but more than a third of users design applications vulnerable to relatively common Availability Zone outages,” Uptime wrote.

Worsening Data Center Staffing Issues

As the number and size of data centers around the world continue to grow, the number of job openings is also growing and outpacing recruitment efforts, according to Uptime. He estimates that staffing needs will increase globally, from about 2.0 million full-time equivalent employees in 2019 to nearly 2.3 million in 2025. Some of these jobs in centers data belong to new categories and require specialized skills.

According to the report: “Staff shortages affect nearly every job role in data centers globally. In mature data center markets, such as North America and Western Europe, much of the existing workforce is aging and many professionals expect to retire soon. around the same time, leaving data centers with a deficit in both manpower and experience. Recruitment efforts are often offset by the low visibility of the job seeker sector. Efforts to strengthen talent pools by attracting career changers to the data center industry are still in their infancy. »

In the 2022 survey, 53% of data center operators reported difficulties finding qualified employees in 2022, compared to 47% in 2021 and 38% in 2018. Additionally, 42% reported problems with hiring staff, in most cases with competitors. That’s a significant jump from just 17% in 2018.

Non-tracking of environmental data

According to Uptime, most respondents say they report on overall data center energy consumption and power utilization efficiency (PUE), but many still don’t track environmental metrics reviews. Most data center operators expect to soon be required to report on carbon emissions, for example, but many are not ready to comply.

Among survey respondents, 63% said they believe authorities in their region will require them to publish environmental data over the next five years, but only 37% collect and report carbon emissions data (against 33% in 2021) and only 39% currently. declare their water consumption (compared to 51% in 2021). New laws, standards and requirements will force operators to close these gaps and establish stricter sustainability tracking and reporting practices in the years to come, Uptime reports.

This year Global Data Center Survey includes responses from 800 data center owners and operators and contributions from 700 data center vendors, designers and consultants worldwide.

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Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

Ramon J. Espinoza