Behind the surge: Examining the extreme demand for enterprise data centres across North America

Behind the surge: Examining the extreme demand for enterprise data centres across North America

More than 60 years later, in the region that pioneered one of the first data centres, North America remains steadfast and unrivalled as a global tech powerhouse, dwarfing its European counterparts. Brett Lindsey, CEO at Involta, delves into the significance of the region and underscores its continuous potential for further achievements.

Brett Lindsey, CEO at Involta

More than any other region in the world, North America is experiencing an unprecedented surge in demand for best-in-class data centres. As connectivity requirements rise amid the rapid expansion of technology-driven industries and the widespread adoption of cloud computing, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI), data centres have emerged as the backbone of modern infrastructure.

From facilitating seamless online experiences to powering complex algorithms, data centres play an essential role in shaping interconnectivity for enterprises across North America – and that role is expected to grow by leaps and bounds as the continent holds its reign as the global leader of technological innovation.

So, what’s driving this record-breaking data centre demand, and how will data centres answer the call for connectivity and future-focused solutions to meet the ever-growing needs of enterprises?

North American data centres by numbers
The North America data centre market size is growing at lightning speed, currently estimated at approximately 16,000MW and expected to reach nearly 26,000MW by 2029. Beyond power capacity, its market revenue is projected to reach US$110 billion in 2024, nearly one-third of the revenue projected worldwide at US$340 billion.

What’s more, the digital infrastructure market means big business in North America, particularly in the US, with revenue estimated to reach US$99 billion in 2024. But it goes beyond the megawatts and revenue – its growth is also defined by the sheer number of data centre facilities popping up throughout the region.

The number of data centres is incomparable in other areas of the world. As of September 2023, 5,375 data centres were reported in the US – the most of any country worldwide – with Germany coming in at a distant second with 522 data centres, followed by 517 in the UK.

Empowering North America’s position as a tech powerhouse
What is driving this extreme data centre demand? The exponential growth in North America reflects the region’s position as a leader in technological innovation. As businesses increasingly rely on digital platforms to reach customers and manage operations, the demand for reliable and efficient data storage and colocation solutions has soared.

One of the key drivers behind this expansion is the escalating volume of data generated by users, devices and applications. From the rise of IoT to advancements in AI and Machine Learning to the emergence of Edge Computing, the digital footprint of organisations continues to grow faster than ever, presenting both lucrative and formidable challenges for data centre operators. To thrive in the midst of this data boom, data centres must be nimble, staying ahead of enterprise needs and embracing innovation as a cornerstone of their growth strategy.

Keeping pace with an eye to the future
Opportunities abound for North American enterprise data centres, but the key will be to stay agile as the rapid emergence of new technologies and evolving enterprise requirements across mission-critical verticals continues to reshape the digital landscape. That’s no small feat. To meet industry demands today and well into the future, data centre providers not only need to focus on space and power, but also efficiency and sustainability as workloads expand. 
Sustainability and efficiency within the industry are critical, especially as the need for faster, greater computing power rises. We are already seeing tremendous innovation in energy efficiency, waste reduction, emissions tracking and new ways to repurpose waste heat. For example, direct liquid cooling (DLC) is a game-changer in the management of IT equipment and rack temperatures. By leveraging convection, DLC technology is much more efficient than traditional air-cooling methods. With DLC in place, data centres can improve PUE, operating at a higher capacity and achieving more energy-efficient operations.

Another way to optimise PUE is to invest in renewable energy, such as wind, solar and geothermal. According to Uptime Institute, renewable energy currently accounts for just 23% of the total power consumed by data centres worldwide. This indicates significant potential for further growth and utilisation of renewable energy sources within the industry.

Mitigating costly cyberattacks
In addition to keeping sustainability top of mind, to remain resilient, North American data centre operators must make cybersecurity the top priority. From sensitive healthcare data to private financial information, enterprise data centre security plans need to be ironclad. To keep critical data secure, enterprises and data centres – if they haven’t already – will need to embrace the adoption of Zero Trust security models, Multi-Factor- and Biometric-Authentication solutions and data backups.

Additionally, more enterprises will look to leverage the expertise of managed cybersecurity providers to implement robust employee training, Disaster Recovery and compliance requirements. Certifications like HI TRUST and NIST are often too cumbersome for many enterprises to handle internally, so partnering with a knowledgeable data centre operator who understands complex regulatory requirements will be critical.

There will also be a need for expanded and improved managed security services. Around-the-clock monitoring and analysis of the security posture for enterprises will require a combination of supported security toolsets, incident response and operational processes to keep mission-critical assets secure.

Leveraging highly sought-after secondary markets
Opportunities for data centre growth and success also hinge on location. The uptick in enterprise colocation and Edge, spurred by AI, cloud-native applications, IoT and other latency-sensitive applications, is drawing more attention to Tier 2 markets, particularly in the US. For example, Green Bay, Wisconsin, with its close proximity to Chicago, a Tier 1 market, is a prime target for data centre expansion to support the rapidly growing needs and performance requirements of high-tech industries, particularly manufacturing.

Energy-efficient data centres in Tier 2 markets can also bring robust, redundant fibre infrastructure to surrounding areas, driving more connectivity locally and regionally. The expansion into secondary markets will continue to become more essential as data processing power will be needed close to the point of use to support AI and IoT while still having access to Tier 1 markets. Internet Exchanges (IX) within secondary markets is also on the rise as they offer several benefits, including improved local connectivity and collaboration and greater network redundancy and resilience.

Investing in employee upskilling and training
Empowering the next generation and upskilling current employees are important ways to contribute to the holistic success of the industry and build a future-focused, tech-driven culture. Data centres that invest in social causes, such as STEM education, are better able to strengthen bonds within the technology community and create a positive impact within the industry. Upskilling current talent is also essential to ensure the data centre workforce remains adaptable and innovative. When data centre providers invest in their employees, it leads to overall success and carries over into improving the customer experience for their clients.

Rising to the challenge to drive further growth
As the relentless surge for heightened connectivity and High-Performance Computing sweeps across North America, data centres have an immense opportunity to drive further innovation and growth. Standing as essential hubs of connectivity, data centres will be the key to powering our data-driven world efficiently and effectively. If they can rise to the challenge of providing digital infrastructure and data centre solutions that are future-focused, sustainable, efficient and secure, the horizon will be brimming with boundless possibilities.

Click below to share this article

Browse our latest issue

Intelligent Data Centres

View Magazine Archive