By Shahrukh Ashhar, Segment Leader-Data Center Solutions, ABB

North America experienced a historic surge in demand for data centers during 2023. This trend is expected to continue at an unprecedented rate for several more years, with projections indicating a more than double growth by 2028. Although capacity was already on a trajectory for steady expansion, the projected increase in high-intensity generative AI workloads is contributing to additional demand in the data center sector.

Traditionally, data centers have been structured around CPU-powered racks to manage traditional computing workloads. Estimates suggest that around 30 billion CPU cores are currently operational worldwide, with a significant majority situated within the data center environment. However, the emergence of AI computing mandates the utilization of GPU-powered racks. These racks, equipped with GPUs, not only consume more power, and generate additional heat but also require more physical space compared to an equivalent CPU capacity.

Forward-thinking data center companies are strategically dividing their spaces to accommodate both AI and conventional compute needs, aiming to achieve a balanced approach that aligns with the evolving demands of the market. Meanwhile, operators must focus on designing data centers to achieve maximum efficiency and resilience to be ready for future needs.

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The majority of data center supply scheduled for delivery in 2024 has either been pre-leased or is subject to exclusivity agreements, limiting options for organizations that have not made prior arrangements. This imbalance in the supply chain is anticipated to persist through 2024 and potentially extend well into 2025.

The Modular or prefabricated Data Center concept can be a valuable solution in this scenario. Modular designs provide scalability, allowing data centers to expand seamlessly as AI workloads increase, all without the need for significant structural changes.

The concept behind prefabricated modular data centers is relatively simple: move on-site construction and integration tasks off site, where they can be performed under tightly controlled conditions by trained specialists.

The use of this approach to support new data center construction represents one of the most interesting and high-value applications of the modular data center approach. Rather than constructing a new free-standing facility using traditional stick-build processes which can take up to 18 months, modules are fabricated off site and then assembled on site, streamlining development processes to enable fast deployment of up to 50%, and resulting in high-quality and high-performing data centers.

Summary: The development and widespread adoption of AI are inevitable and anticipated to progress at an unprecedented pace. Therefore, stakeholders in the data center industry must be prepared to accommodate and manage the increasing workload associated with AI applications and among various measures energy-efficient, digital, modular, predesigned, and prefabricated solutions serve as key drivers for robust growth, in the world of data centers.

About Author: 

Shahrukh Ashhar – Segment Leader, Data Center Solutions

Ashhar is a seasoned business leader with Electrification and automation industry experience in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and North American markets. Working for ABB in Canada, helping data center companies and their channels to deliver sustainable and reliable projects.

About ABB Data Center Solutions:  

ABB is a technology leader in electrification and automation, enabling a more sustainable and resource-efficient future. Recognized as a global leader in providing data center solutions from substation to sockets. ABB’s modular, scalable, and prefabricated solution enables data centers to quicker speed to deployment and return on investment.