While data center supply management has always worked on a bell curve pursuant to supply and demand, never has the industry been met with the conditions we are going through today. In the early 1990s, the longest lead-to-purchase time was 45 weeks for raised floor tiles. Today, the longest lead-to-purchase times are for generators, transformers, switchgear, and raw materials.

With that being said, here are four major concerns affecting the data center industry today.

  1. Raw materials — While performing site selection, there are areas that comply with the national minerals within that region. For example, when building in Texas and other hard rock areas, concrete may be used. The challenge now is obtaining concrete mix to achieve speed-to-market goals and schedules. This also affects precast, tilt-up installations. Steel and other metals imported from China and other countries can also be slowed.
  2. Data center equipment — When it comes to data center equipment, there are multiple long lead-to-purchase times for items, including switchgear and generators. In addition to major equipment for construction, owners are finding it difficult to deliver servers. This results in construction delays that affect design construction administration efforts and commissioning. In addition to data center equipment delays, procuring parts and diesel fuel are also an issue. Fuel prices for diesel have not been dropping like regular gas prices have.
  3. Consultant supply — Everyone is busy. Qualified engineers and consultants are rare because several large technology companies have been absorbing staff. Typical architects and engineers within the industry cannot afford to match salaries and stock incentives. This has created a vast hiring issue with consultants and contractors hiring junior people to assist in design and the construction process. This requires an intense training process within both the consultant and contractor industries to provide quality design and delivery process. Never has managing RFI’s been more frustrating.
  4. Operations supply — While hiring experienced operations managers has been an issue for the last five years, it still proves true today. Firms, such as Salute Mission Critical, which outsource operations services, have continued to grow nationally and internationally. Even though it is a restack or security project, they have expanded internationally to cater to the lack of operating personnel that is required within the industry. And while there are certifications within the industry, few colleges offer data center operations degrees to support the industry.

Tips to combat the supply chain issues

  1. Raw materials — During site selection, consideration should be given to local materials versus what is in the prototype design. When selecting the site and identifying the best materials that can be used, variations may be required. Site selection requirements may be altered due to the schedule of the project and the supply of materials. Try to use local materials as an alternative whenever possible. This may cost more to develop shell and core items but will increase the construction schedule. While it adds three to four weeks for an analysis to discover, it will save time in the long run.
  2. Data center equipment — Most companies have design standards that have prequalified equipment and even attempt "bulk purchasing.” However, in certain cases, companies may need to adjust to vendor-preferred equipment that may have been previously inserted into their standards to decrease lead times. Major manufacturers, however, are pretty much running parallel in delivery times.
  3. Consultant supply — Over the last four to five years, companies have been increasing their supply chain, adding additional architects, engineers, contractors, and consultants. When selecting alternative consultants, be sure to review their resumes, past project experience, and geographical experience.
  4. Operations supply — Be sure to consider outsourcing for day-to-day operations. Consider the regions nationally and internationally as well as the outsourcer resumes and backgrounds.


Be flexible about your standards to ensure project schedules can be achieved. Add additional materials and equipment to meet your specifications while investigating lead times.