Worldwide Appetite for Data Centers Keeps Growing

Article originally posted on Globe St. on August 31, 2018

CHICAGO—The global data center market has been surging for several years, and experts believe this record breaking growth will continue for the foreseeable future. JLL attributes much of the recent growth to the need for cloud services, and according to its just-released 2018 Data Center Outlook, even after a record-shattering 2016, cloud operators kept up the pace across all major North American markets in 2017, taking around 25% of available data center space in many major cities. And North America is in many ways the focus of this global industry. Overall, North American markets account for more than 60% of the near-400 megawatts currently under construction around the world. Las Vegas/Reno leads the way (40 MW), followed by Toronto (39 MW), Chicago (34 MW), Dallas/Fort Worth (22 MW) and Northern Virginia (22 MW). And although many US occupiers were looking to expand their global footprint in 2017, developers in the US and Canada finished 363.5 MW of new inventory last year. JLL expects that new US development will remain roughly the same in 2018, but may slow down in the top markets while accelerating in secondary and tertiary markets. “It’s getting hard to find development sites in Northern Virginia,” Mark Bauer, managing director and data center solutions co-lead, JLL, tells GlobeSt.com. But the necessary infrastructure, including adequate power and fiber, has spread throughout the region, one of the densest in the US, and he expects area developers will begin building new capacity on cheaper land in its outlying areas. The deliberate nature of data center developers will keep the current building boom from getting out of control, says Mason Mularoni, a Boston-based senior research analyst with JLL. “The data center guys are really savvy,” and many are REITs, which “tend to be very focused on their bottom lines. We won’t have an excessive amount of supply.” “We’re going to continue to see companies build speculative projects, but in a conservative way,” Bauer adds. Many have already bought large chunks of land in rising submarkets, and rather than simply building up capacity, “they will get the power and fiber infrastructure in place, and only build when it’s needed.” According to Phoenix Business Journal, for example, both Washington, DC-based Dupont Fabros Technology Inc. and Herndon, VA-based EdgeConneX, among others, recently purchased significant amounts of land in suburban Mesa, AZ, the new home of Apple’s massive command center, which should create data center demand for years. The Phoenix region was one of the top performers in 2017, according to JLL. Absorption hit 29.9 MW, more than 80% higher than 2016 levels, with no sign of slowing.

CHICAGO—Although political or economic troubles agitate many regions of the world, an unquenchable demand from cloud providers helped the global data center industry expand by a remarkable amount in the first half of 2018, according to JLL’s latest Data Center Outlook. The Chicago-based company’s analysis reveals that the US, Canada, EMEA, and APAC amassed a staggering 421.2 megawatts of absorption, with the US and Canada leading the way with 292.1 MW, up 31.9% from the first half of 2017.

And that big jump for the US and Canada did not come as a surprise.

“It was something that we foresaw,” Mark Bauer, JLL’s managing director and data center solutions co-lead, tells GlobeSt.com, after tracking substantial increases in demand and construction over the past year. In many cities and regions, including America’s standout market Northern VA, new data center development can’t keep up with the burgeoning demand for cloud services and social media.

Northern VA led the world with 168.3 MW of data center absorption, far ahead of second-place London, which recorded 24.5 MW. Other US metros in the top 10 include Phoenix, Las Vegas/Reno, Dallas/Ft. Worth and Chicago, all of which saw between 15 MW and 20 MW of absorption.

Data center absorption is not calculated on a strictly square-footage basis. The absorption numbers represent both the amount of new multi-tenant data center square footage and power actually leased. And JLL does not consider data space “planned” until a developer actually puts up a roof and has the space ready to serve potential users.

new jersey data center (2)NJ1 Data Center in Piscataway, NJ, a 360,000 square foot building near Newark Airport.

Northern VA leads the world in absorption mostly because “it’s where the internet was born,” says Bo Bond, JLL managing director and data center solutions co-lead. The infrastructure first created there kept growing, and a sizable chunk of the world’s internet traffic still flows through it. As a result, many of the world’s largest providers continue to see it as crucial.

CoreSiteCyrusOneDigital RealtyEquinix, InfomartIron Mountain, QTSSabey, and Vantage currently have new significant deliveries available, according to JLL, and many have closed on new land deals in the area. In total, developers in Northern VA have 317 MW under construction. Phoenix, however, with 136.5 MW under construction, is also rising in prominence. Although no other metro region comes close to the level of activity in this pair, JLL says “under-construction pipelines increased in nearly every market as providers race to bring the newest and freshest product online.”

The data center industry did experience one blip earlier this year when the stock prices of Equinix, CoreSite, CyrusOne, Digital Realty and other data center REITs took a hit. “There was a fairly significant pullback,” Bond says, which he attributes to a few missed earnings reports. The data center sector may be more vulnerable to temporary setbacks like that because it’s so new. “When one of them gets popped, the others pull back.” But the tremendous success and expansion of data center industry seems to have helped calm whatever worries arose at the start of the year. The stock prices quickly began their trek back, and all were either past or near 2018 stock starts by June 30.

Bauer expects the world’s built capacity will get absorbed in short order, as the major markets continue to see strong absorption in 2018 and 2019. “There’s no sign of this appetite for data center and cloud space abating anytime soon.”

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