Global investment in data centres has grown 22% in the last year, from approximately $86 billion in 2011 to $105 billion in 2012, according to the latest findings from the DatacenterDynamics (DCD) 2012 Global Census.
The largest increase in investment (23%) was in the facilities management (FM) and mechanical and electrical (M&E) sectors, including such areas as uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), cooling equipment, and data centre infrastructure management (DCIM) systems. This was up from $40 billion in 2011 to $49 billion in 2012.
The IT equipment sector - including 'active' equipment such as servers, storage, switches and routers - showed slower growth at 17%, from $30 billion in 2011 to $35 billion in 2012.
The focus on the FM and M&E sectors is largely due to a massive increase in global data centre power demand. The report states that power consumption has grown 63% globally to 38 gigawatts (GW) over the last twelve months, with a further 17% forecast for 2013.
This is because the proportion of high density racks is increasing, so each rack is now consuming more power on average. The need for electrical power generation, distribution, UPS and cooling equipment in data centres has therefore grown as a result of these power increases.
In spite of this increase in power demand, however, concern about power availability and cost - both of which have been constant topics in the media and data centre professional groups in recent years - is actually down on a global basis.
"This is explained in part by the increasing representation amongst the sample of companies in less developed markets where power requirements are smaller and so less constrained than in mature markets," said Nicola Hayes, managing director of DCD Intelligence.
"Also in part by efficiency and other strategies put in place by data centre companies over the past 12 months to mitigate against increased power costs and to overcome issues to do with availability."
The news comes as Ofgem warns that Britain risks running out of energy generating capacity in the winter of 2015-16. A report by the UK energy regulator predicts that the amount of spare capacity could fall from 14% to only 4% in three years, leaving Britain relying more on imported gas.
Commenting on the news, Chris Smith, director at data centre management firm on365, said that inefficient data centres are a major contributor to this problem.
"Data centres consume between 2-3% of the UK's total electricity and about half of this demand actually powers the computational equipment (servers and storage) with the rest being consumed by supporting infrastructure such as lighting and cooling. In addition, traditional data centres typically run only at around 10% efficiency," he said.
"Innovative new software and data centre design techniques can massively increase efficiency of data centre hardware by factors of 5 to 6. For example, cloud computing and virtualisation software can reduce the physical resources (number of servers) required to deliver powerful computing services. Redesigning the layout of the data centre can substantially reduce energy costs."
The DCD Census also found that there has been a significant increase in the uptake of outsourcing globally - particularly colocation - over the past 12 months. Reasons for this in the Western economies include the need during tough economic times to reduce CapEx as well as increasing complexities in the data centre environment.
A full copy of the DCD 2012 Global Census can be requested here.