In 2024, it seems highly likely that demand for capacity will continue to grow at pace. Most of the key trends identified by the likes of Gartner, Accenture, Forbes, and other expert commentators point to ever more compute and storage needs.

Managing some of the opportunities ahead – continued exponential demand, the widespread deployment of AI, and greater end-user awareness of data centers – suggests three commitments that we should make as a sector in 2024: invest in reputation, deliver diversity, and embrace youth.

Connecting the dots

  • The general public and our local communities are gradually becoming more aware of the data center sector, but further education is needed.
  • Sustainability and power-consumption concerns have been hot topics on media agendas rather than the benefits of data centers and the value they bring to the digital economy.
  • Confidentiality is, of course, required around the technical nature of operations, along with commercial discretion regarding clients, precise specifications, and locations, but the next 12 months offer a unique window to provide a better understanding of what we do and why it matters.
  • Emerging tech advancements including artificial intelligence (AI) and sustainable technology provide the perfect gateway. Generative AI will rapidly become mainstream in 2024 as more and more businesses and individuals begin to leverage its power in their daily lives.

As the public begins to recognize the power of AI to solve economic, social, and environmental issues, we must demonstrate the fundamental connection between AI and data centers. The data center community can facilitate this by proactive engagement with local communities and end users, for instance by hosting community focus groups and engaging with mainstream media. The data center industry is dynamic, innovative, and a force for good in the world. Let’s be more vocal about our achievements.

Progress has already been made around explaining the value we bring as an industry, but many people still don't understand what a data center is and how our day-to-day lives are intrinsically intertwined with this 'invisible' technology. Transparency, awareness, and outreach will be key in 2024 as we build for the future. Critical infrastructure, including data centers, is essential to the progress of AI.

Data centers are sustainable technology

The same is true of sustainable technology, which Gartner highlights as one of its top 10 trends for 2024. Data centers provide a triple hit of support for sustainable technology.

Modern data centers are already highly sustainable technologies in themselves and are drivers of innovation for sustainability. They are also the vital link to a whole host of highly visible sustainable technologies. From wind farms to connected vehicles, virtual calls to second-by-second energy and building management systems, green technologies depend on data centers.

Our imperative as a sector in 2024 is to rebuild and reinforce a positive reputation by communicating about digital infrastructure in ways that illustrate the continuity between end-user benefits and essential data centers.

Mirror the digital natives we serve

To become more authentic and credible in these reputation-building dialogues and go beyond the data center, we must be more representative of the people our infrastructure ultimately serves. Although progress has been made, we must keep evolving. We need diversity of background, experience, ethnicity, age, and outlook in order to fully embrace the challenges of digital infrastructure.

The range of roles, skillsets, and opportunities in the sector is far wider than many outside the industry recognize. Creating organizations where every person can be themselves, and deliver in line with their ethics, values, and beliefs is a prerequisite for building a positive reputation. And of course, the more attractive an industry we become, the more great candidates, partners, and supporters we’ll attract.

The skills and talents we need are in short supply and highly contested. Our ambition in 2024 must be to create the inflection point at which diversity and education are recognized as the great enablers

Speaking of inspiring the next generation, 2024 can be the year in which we embrace youth. How do we attract more young people into the industry? By inspiring them. The data center sector is a dynamic, exciting, and rapidly growing sector. We want to ensure this is being effectively articulated in print, across social media, and online.

Many of this sector’s leaders have long and storied careers spanning back to the days of the telco carrier hotels and interconnect hubs. This experience has played a vital role in the evolution of the industry and remains important today.

But the challenges we face now require a wider, more agile, and multi-disciplinary approach. If we are to move from operators of huge, anonymous grey buildings, to vibrant, interconnected participants in a digital ecosystem, we need fresh faces.

In addition to what our industry veterans can offer, one of our industry’s 2024 goals can be to ensure we're taking even more steps to encourage, support, and nurture the next generation of data center experts. That means further collaboration with schools and higher education institutions, offering not just the opportunity to learn about data centers but also realistic career opportunities to follow.

If we are to thrive as a key enabler of tomorrow’s digital infrastructure sector, we need to take a proactive approach and ensure our communities understand the value we bring.

As the industry grows and becomes ever more important globally, stakeholders in the data center industry should expect increased interest in the work we do. Investing in authentic reputation-building, true commitment to diverse workforces, and wholeheartedly nurturing the ideas, insights, and enthusiasm of youth can and should be among our commitments for 2024.