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29 February 2024

Decoding site selection: The top four considerations for building Data Centers

Gary Devenney's extensive experience in delivering complex projects across various sectors at Linesight, coupled with his directorial role and work with key technology accounts in the U.S. since 2010, positions him as a leading expert in data center site selection. Explore his valuable insights on this critical aspect below. 

In today's digital-first world, the explosion of data centers across the globe is a testament to our insatiable demand for digital information. Every business and industry rely on seamless access to data, driving the construction of thousands of data centers annually. While considerations like construction costs, capacity, and environmental impact are at the forefront, the strategic choice of location plays a pivotal role in the long-term success of these projects.

The big picture: A global industry on the rise

Let's zoom out for a moment. The global data center construction market is not just growing; it's booming. With humans generating a staggering 2.5 quintillion bytes of data daily, the need for robust data infrastructure has never been clearer. From the countless Snapchat images shared to the endless emails sent and the hours spent on Teams and Zoom, every byte of this data criss-crosses through data centers, making their role in our digital lives indispensable. It's no wonder the total value of large-scale data center projects has soared past the $300 billion mark, with a significant chunk of these investments concentrated in the Americas. 

The cloud's silver lining and the surge of hyperscale operators

A key driver of this unprecedented growth is the cloud computing revolution. The past few years have seen cloud services dominate, necessitating off-premises data storage solutions. This shift has led to a surge in demand from hyperscale operators specializing in cloud computing and social media, further accelerating the pace of data center construction. Interestingly, almost half of these facilities were snapped up on lease before their completion, underscoring the high demand and strategic foresight required in planning and executing these projects. With the rise of AI, data center power consumption is forecasted to to skyrocket to 35GW by 2030, nearly doubling its 2022 level, further causing transformation in the sector.  

The clustering phenomenon: Why location matters

The United States leads the charge with over 2,700 large data centers, dwarfing other countries in terms of sheer numbers. A closer look reveals a clustering effect, with certain regions, like Virginia, becoming hotbeds for data center activity. This clustering isn't coincidental but a result of strategic selection, where factors like energy costs, climate, labor availability, and local regulations converge to make some locations more attractive than others. 

The four pillars of strategic site selection

When it comes to choosing the right spot for a data center, the decision-making process is anything but simple. Here are four critical considerations that every organization must weigh:

  1. Proximity to customer markets: In the era of hyperscale and colocation facilities, being close to customer markets is crucial. Colocation centers, in particular, offer a lifeline to small and medium-sized businesses, providing them with the necessary infrastructure to scale. The rise of edge data centers is a response to the need for closer proximity to user bases, reducing latency and enhancing connectivity for emerging technologies like IoT and smart home devices. 
  2. Environment and sustainability: The environmental footprint of data centers has come under scrutiny, pushing operators to consider sustainable practices in both construction and operation. Innovations in site design, such as Microsoft's campus in Holland, which integrates natural water filtration systems, exemplify how data centers can align with broader sustainability goals while also tapping into less conventional locations. 
  3. Energy costs and availability: The push towards renewable energy sources is reshaping the data center landscape. Operators like Yondr and EdgeConneX are exploring renewable energy projects and infrastructure to support the green transition, highlighting the industry's commitment to sustainability and energy efficiency. 
  4. Local regulations and incentives: Cutting through red tape and capitalizing on local incentives can significantly impact the speed and cost-effectiveness of data center projects. Regions that offer a conducive regulatory environment and attractive tax incentives, like Northern Virginia, have emerged as preferred locations for data center development. 

The road ahead: balancing growth with strategic insight

As the data center industry continues to evolve, the importance of strategic site selection has never been more pronounced. The challenges of rapid growth, coupled with the need for sustainable and efficient operations, demand a nuanced understanding of the factors that influence site selection. From the surge in cloud computing to the advent of edge data centers, the landscape is shifting, requiring operators to stay ahead of the curve in planning and development.  

In conclusion, as we navigate this data-driven era, the strategic selection of data center locations will continue to play a critical role in shaping the digital infrastructure that powers our world. The conversation around site selection is complex, involving a delicate balance of technical, environmental, and regulatory considerations. But one thing is clear: the decisions made today will lay the foundation for the digital landscapes of tomorrow. 

If you are interested in working with Linesight in the Americas region, please click here to contact our team.


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