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Eco-Insights: Will Sustainability Be the Dominant Data Center Trend of 2022?

Rob Johnson •

Each year at Vertiv, we bring together experts from across our organization to analyze the data center trends that could gain traction in the coming year. Our goal is to identify emerging trends early in their evolution but not so early that they aren’t actionable. While no attempt at predicting the future is 100% accurate, if you revisit our previous trends reports, you’ll see our experts got a lot more right than wrong.

We've just released our 2022 data center trends and I’m excited to see how they play out in 2022.

Our top trend focuses on sustainability and climate change. Data centers fuel scientific advances, improve business processes, deliver entertainment to our homes, and enable new ways to shop and connect with the world, contributing tremendous value to individuals, business and society. But as the industry continues to scale to meet demand—and with an estimated 2.9 gigawatts of new data center capacity under construction right now—there is growing concern about the resources these facilities consume.

While our industry has made good progress in recent years improving the energy efficiency of data centers, there’s plenty more to do. Our experts see the coming year as one in which data center operators are more purposeful in their approach and expand on previous efforts to encompass resource utilization, carbon emissions and waste reduction.

We’ve already seen the largest data center operators moving in this direction. Some have set ambitious sustainability goals for their organizations that include achieving net-zero carbon emissions and water use in the next 10 years. As they pursue these goals, they’re charting a course for the rest of the industry while also leveraging their scale to accelerate the advancement of technologies that enable more sustainable operations.

That course is clear. For these innovators, the first steps focus on matching energy use with 100% renewable energy and capitalizing on new infrastructure technologies to improve energy utilization and reduce dependence on water-intensive thermal management systems.

While taking steps to reduce the impact of their facilities on climate change, operators must simultaneously ensure data centers are protected from the effects of climate change. Deciding where and how to build new facilities and place telecommunications networks can’t be done without considering the continuity challenges that come with more frequent and severe weather events.

At Vertiv, our efforts are similarly focused, as we continue to drive innovations that enable more efficient resource utilization and increased use of renewable energy, while ensuring the continuity and resiliency that must accompany sustainability. A few of those innovations include a new uninterruptible power supply (UPS) operating mode that safely and dynamically adapts to changes in power quality enabling operating efficiency up to 99%. We’ve also introduced energy-efficient and water-free economization systems that provide an alternative to water-intensive cooling systems, Additionally, we’ve integrated solar energy solutions into telecommunications access sites. Beyond our own product portfolio, we’re working with industry thought leadership groups – EcoEdge Prime Power (E2P2), Open Compute Project (OCP), European Data Centre Association (EUDCA) and others – and contributing to conversations and research to help develop technologies and best practices for future-ready digital infrastructures with the goal of increasing their energy efficiency and reliability.

The next step in the journey toward achieving net-zero operations requires reducing dependence on the grid, which will likely continue to rely on carbon-based energy sources for the foreseeable future. The combination of fuel cells, long-duration energy storage and intelligent power management systems will make the transformation from grid power to locally generated renewable power technically viable and economically attractive.

This won’t be simple or easy. It represents a fundamental shift in how data centers are powered and, to become a reality, will require concerted efforts and collaboration by data center operators, their infrastructure partners and other stakeholders.

Fulfilling this shared commitment will, however, enable a future in which data centers continue to deliver incredible value to the world while effectively minimizing their impact on the planet and the communities in which they operate. That’s why I’m especially excited about this trend and hopeful the industry tackles this important issue with the purpose and urgency our experts predict. You can read more about this trend and our other predictions for 2022 here.


Read more from Vertiv experts on energy management and other sustainability topics in our Eco-Insights Blog Series.

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