The rapid advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming the landscape of data centers, making them more crucial than ever before. At this year’s DCD Connect event in London, Brice Fourney, the vice president of Equans Data Centers, joined a major panel alongside industry leaders to discuss “The next phase of scale: Building to be AI-ready.”

Equans Data Centers

Brice Fourney began the panel discussion by announcing the formation of Equans Data Centers, a strategic data center partner leveraging the combined expertise and delivery capacities created by merging Bouygues Energies & Services and Equans in January 2023.

This brand aims to deliver comprehensive services covering the design, build, and commissioning of major data centers across Europe, catering to the needs of hyperscalers and colocation businesses. With decades of data center experience, Equans Data Centers is poised to address the increasing planning and capacity requirements of the data center industry.

Fourney stressed the importance of laying a strong foundation for AI-ready data centers. He acknowledged that as AI evolves, expectations regarding data center quality, reliability, and uptime remain unsettled. Data centers must rise to the occasion, preparing for the power-hungry processes and exponential growth in AI applications.

Sustainability in the face of AI

The impact of AI on power demand and environmental sustainability was a significant concern raised during the panel discussion. The AI revolution will come with a significant environmental footprint, contributing to our global unaffordable effects on the environment.

Fourney warned, “Even though todays discussions are focusing on delivering at the scale needed upcoming for AI uses, we should still be talking about sustainability” and emphasised the need for innovative design approaches to create sustainable, low-footprint data centers.

“The future is ambiguous, but AI also brings the opportunity for efficiency, reinforcing the importance of sustainability in the industry.”

Diversity and growth in the data center industry

Fourney emphasised the need for expanding the workforce in the data center industry due to the industry’s rapid growth. He stressed the importance of training new staff to handle projects on a massive scale and the significance of having senior, experienced professionals to manage the increasing investments. The panel noted that diversity and inclusivity are crucial at this pivotal point of growth, offering exciting opportunities for people to work on data center projects.

The potential of retrofitting data centers

Fourney was asked whether existing data centers could be retrofitted to accommodate AI or if the scale of AI made this impossible. He expressed an open-minded perspective, saying: “Never say never.”

While older data centers offer excellent connectivity, retrofitting them can be challenging due to increased power requirements, exhaust issues, and heavy equipment transportation. However, it is not impossible and should be considered on a case-by-case basis, as it may be more cost-effective in some situations.

The path to AI-ready data centers

When discussing the timescale for data centers to be fully AI-ready, 18 months was an agreed-upon timeframe. Efficiency is better for clients as faster deployment benefits their time and money.

Looking to the future

As the panel concluded, the future of AI-ready data centers appears bright and ambiguous. Fourney expressed his hope that, in the next two years, the industry will advance its understanding of the full life-cycle assessment of data centers.

With collaboration and innovation, the industry is poised to attract new talent and explore new avenues in data center design and development. The insights shared by Fourney shed light on the crucial role of data centers in the AI revolution and emphasise the need for sustainable, diverse, and innovative practices as the industry continues to evolve.

To watch the full discussion from the DCD>Connect event in London featuring Brice Fourney, click here.