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Skills shortage in data centre sector drives move to the cloud

By Catherine Knowles, Fri 19 Nov 2021

An increasing number of data centre operators in the Asia Pacific region will be migrating to the cloud or relying more heavily on managed services by 2025, as a shortage of skilled workers will impact the sector’s ability to build new on-premises capacity to meet post-pandemic demand.

Research carried out by ABB in partnership with Data Center Dynamics (DCD), reveals that the current 50/50 split between data centre equipment housed on-premises versus co-location or cloud-based solutions is set for a shake up over the next four years.

The survey found that more than two thirds of senior industry experts (69.1%) indicate this will shift to just 25% on-prem and 75% in colo or cloud in the near future.

The reason for this shift in thinking may lie in the industry’s struggle to build new capacity, the researchers state.

More than 40% of people asked by ABB said that data centre construction in APAC hadn’t been able to keep up with demand over the past 12 months, as the perfect storm of an unpredicted surge in demand and a reliance on traditional construction practices held back progress.

Three out of four respondents (76%) agreed that business transformation in APAC needed hyperscale to progress, but the research revealed that these plans for growth are being hampered by a number of issues which have been created, or made worse, by the pandemic.

These include supply chain resilience (82.2%), health and safety precautions (77.3%) and access to specialist sub-contractors and trades (74.2%) as the biggest areas of concern for the sector.

The availability of specialist skills also tops the list of factors which will have the greatest effect on data centre construction costs over the next three years, with 44.6% of respondents mentioning it as a key issue.

The skills shortage issue in the Asia Pacific region mirrors trends in Europe, where 42% of data centre operators believe there’s not enough skilled labor to deliver increased capacity requirements across the continent.

More than 80% of European companies say they have been affected by labor gaps and more than seven out of ten believe the pandemic has made the industry’s skills shortages worse.

ABB data centre segment leader for Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa Region, Kent Chow, says, “Our research shows that the data centre industry in the APAC region is trying to expand and respond to growing data demand but being held back by a shortage of suitably skilled people.

"This is an issue the industry has been facing for many years and it can have big consequences for operators, from extra costs to delays in project delivery times.”

Chow says, “Attracting talent to the industry, providing training and upskilling all takes time so one way operators can help themselves in the short to medium term is to utilise smart solutions for the installation and maintenance of power equipment.

"This can take the pressure off existing staff and speed up installation and commissioning times to get new data centres open faster.”

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