By Ilissa Miller

I had the pleasure of moderating a panel at the DCD>Investment Forum 2024 held in New York City on March 18, 2024.  The panel, which was titled Technological developments – The catalyst for increased investment?  We were tased with exploring the  impact of the evolving technological landscape on future investment focus and strategies and to consider what risks we should be prepared for and mitigated as the industry continues to invest in an uncertain future.

I was joined by a wise panel of industry investment experts including: Raj Vohra of Thor Equities; Alessandro Lombardi of Elea Digital Data Centers; Rhett Weiss of DEALTEK; and Brendan Lynch of Barclays.

Setting the stage, there’s not doubt that the digital infrastructure industry stands at the precipice of transformative change, driven by technological advancements like generative AI, the metaverse, web 3.0, and the burgeoning realm of digital currencies. As the discussion unfolded, challenges like high-density hardware, sustainable solutions, regulatory complexities, and energy crises were at the forefront of the discussion. Amidst these challenges, technological advancements, particularly the AI boom, are catalyzing unprecedented demand for digital infrastructure.

Exploring Past Learnings and Present Challenges

The panelists reflected on the past 25 years, drawing parallels between historical trends and present-day challenges. Raj Vohra emphasized the real demand driving the current surge, while Alessandro Lombardi underscored the impact of chip shortages and the cyclical nature of infrastructure evolution, and Rhett Weiss emphasized the holistic approach needed, considering investments in land, power, cooling, and technological innovations.

Adapting to Technological Shifts

The discussion delved into how technology is driving the need for innovation and investments. Raj highlighted the escalating compute needs across various sectors, necessitating constant technological evolution. Alessandro shed light on the challenges of balancing technological advancements with renewable energy adoption, particularly in regions like Brazil. Brendan Lynch emphasized the influx of capital and the imperative to deploy it strategically amidst shifting technological paradigms.

Addressing the Energy Crisis

The panelists discussed the energy crisis and its implications for data center development. Raj stressed the need for flexible, adaptable solutions amidst rising energy demands and operational challenges. Alessandro shared a case study highlighting the trade-offs between cost and innovation in adopting liquid cooling technologies. Rhett emphasized the inevitability of transitioning from traditional cooling methods to more efficient alternatives.

Investing in Cooling and Efficiency

Cooling and efficiency emerged as crucial factors for investors. The panelists explored key innovations in cooling technologies and their impact on data center developments, emphasizing the importance of site selection, density optimization, and building standards.

Convergence of Energy and Data Centers

The discussion turned to the convergence of investments in energy and data centers. Brendan and Rhett discussed alternative energy sources like nuclear and sustainable energy solutions, highlighting potential opportunities and challenges.

Looking Ahead

As the panel concluded, questions lingered about the longevity of the AI wave and the potential for game-changing innovations. Raj hinted at the importance of on-site generation in reducing the need for backup, while the panelists speculated on future technological disruptors and their implications for digital infrastructure.

The panelists all had great insights to share and as we sit on the precipice of a data tsunami, the entire DCD>Investment Forum provided valuable insights into the evolving landscape of digital infrastructure investment. As technological advancements continue to shape the industry, stakeholders must remain agile, embracing innovation while navigating the challenges of sustainability, energy efficiency, and regulatory compliance. With the right strategies and investments, the industry is poised to thrive amidst uncertainty, ushering in a new era of digital transformation.

I am very much looking forward to continuing the conversation at the upcoming data center conferences and the DatacenterDynamics inaugural event, Yotta, which is set for October 7-9, 2024 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.  I look forward to seeing you there!