Uptime Institute report highlights recruitment issues blighting global datacentre industry

First-of-its-kind research into recruitment challenges facing the datacentre industry calls for action to avert a skills crisis developing in the future

The difficulties datacentre operators face when trying to source qualified and experienced staff, as demand for colocation and cloud capacity continues to soar across the globe, is laid bare in a report by the Uptime Institute.

According to the resiliency-focused think tank’s data, the proportion of datacentre owners and operators who ran into difficulties when trying to recruit qualified candidates to fill open roles rose by 50% in 2020.

This in turn has prompted The Uptime Institute to lead calls for the datacentre industry to act now to avert a possible skills crisis in the future, as its data suggests the number of people working in the sector will need to rise by 300,000 to 2.3 million by 2025 to support its continued growth.     

“Although this represents only 2% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over six years, the rising demand will still present some challenges,” said the Uptime Institute in its Global Datacentre Staffing Forecast 2021-2025 report.

“First, this figure represents new jobs, not net demand, which may be increased by other factors, such as the retirement of a large number of existing workers. Second, the demand is unevenly spread, with the greatest needs clustered in certain regions.”

It added: “While there is hope that new technologies to manage and operate facilities will reduce staff burdens over time, Uptime Institute expects that their effect will be limited, at least until 2025.”

For this reason, the organisation said the industry must start investing in initiatives and embarking on “concerted” action now to cultivate a “steady supply of talent” to prevent the situation from reaching a crisis point in the future.

“Although datacentre recruitment needs are expected to rise steadily to 2025, the growth in demand does not need to represent a crisis,” the report stated elsewhere.

“Individual employers can take steps to address the issue, and the sector can act together to raise the profile of opportunities and to improve recruitment and training.”

Additional staff will be needed to fill datacentre job roles in all geographical regions across the world, but is expected to be acutely high in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as North America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, according to the Uptime Institute’s forecast.

At the same time, some markets will also need to find new workers to replace those who exit the jobs market due to retirement, which the report flags as a particular concern for operators in Western Europe and the US.

“There is a concern of a ‘silver tsunami’ with a wave of retirements expected in the coming decade,” the report stated, but action is being taken already to mitigate the impact this trend could potentially have.

“In these markets, the sector is rallying to raise its profile among job seekers, educators and governments with new collective initiatives,” the report continued.

“Globally, the biggest employers are investing in more training and education, not just by developing internal programmes but also by working with universities, colleges and technical schools.”

The scale of the recruitment challenge facing the datacentre industry is something the report set out to uncover, with its authors claiming the report is the first quantitative assessment of the global datacentre sector’s staffing needs ever published.

As well as geography, the report also looks at how demand for staff is likely to change over time within different categories of datacentres, namely private enterprise facilities, hyperscale cloud sites and colocation server farms.

Its data shows that enterprise datacentres employ the most full-time employees out of all three of these types now and will continue to do so until 2025, but the number of people who work in these datacentres will steadily drop over this time period.

Conversely, the number of full-time employees working in hyperscale cloud datacentres is set to increase markedly between now and 2025, which is perhaps unsurprising given how increasingly reliant consumers and enterprises are becoming on cloud services overall.

The report also suggests the number of full-time employees working within the colocation space will remain steady over the same time period.

“Enterprise facilities are currently the most numerous type of datacentre and are typically smaller than many colo and almost all cloud facilities. This often means there are fewer opportunities for economies of scale – including for staff,” the report stated.

“At the same time, enterprises are becoming more efficient. The trend towards consolidation of small regional datacentres by enterprises into larger, centralised sites is well underway. This trend, alongside the move towards increased IT capacity in outsourced venues (colo and/or cloud) is driving the decline in enterprise staff needs over time.

Colo and cloud capacity, on the other hand, will experience continued rapid expansion. The pace of growth can outweigh their economies of scale, which is pushing staff requirements for these types of datacentres upward. We believe that in 2026 or so, the total staff employed by cloud datacentres will surpass that of enterprise datacentres,” the report added.

Read more about skills issues in the datacentre sector

  • A lack of prominent role models and poor visibility of potential career paths are two reasons for the recruitment challenges the datacentre industry continues to face, experts claim.
  • With new figures suggesting the average datacentre worker is 55 years old and male, the industry opens up about what needs to be done to secure a pipeline of new talent to replace those approaching retirement age.

Read more on Datacentre capacity planning

Data Center
Data Management