AI and machine learning (ML) are heating up as fast as a server operating 24/7, 365 days a year. This unprecedented demand for digital infrastructure is driving the design, development, and number of data centers globally. As this surge continues, data center leaders must find innovative ways to optimize efficiency and flexibility in this exploding market.

Enhanced cooling systems

With advancements in AI technologies, tech giants are modifying their hyperscale facilities to accommodate higher rack load requirements due to an increased need for computational power. This excess data usage can lead to a larger carbon footprint, so architects and engineers are identifying efficient cooling methods to balance the increase in heat and density that comes with these demands.

Liquid cooling is revolutionizing how data centers cool powerful hardware, as clients are looking to pack more punch in every rack and square foot to keep up with evolving technological advancements. These techniques, such as augmented air, immersion, and direct-to-chip liquid cooling, transfer heat more efficiently than air alone. High-performance computing (HPC) and AI necessitate servers to be tightly packed to minimize suspension between computing resources. Liquid cooling in data centers facilitates the reduced space between cabinets and hardware, allowing power-dense servers to be positioned in close proximity. Consequently, this optimizes data center space utilization and facilitates the execution of HPC and AI workloads.

Though the data center space can be reduced for the same computing capacity, accommodation for the liquid cooling equipment needs to be taken into consideration. We are reminded that though the servers have been satisfied by the cooling to the cabinet solution, there is still a need for traditional cooling equipment for all the other spaces that support the data hall. The space for equipment will inevitably grow as the data hall shrinks. Or in the case of not shrinking the data hall and adding compute capacity, space for additional cooling equipment will be increased.

Power adaptability

To make the internet available everywhere, all the time, requires a tremendous amount of infrastructure and power. Data centers are stretching the limits of today’s power grid to serve on the front lines of our digital revolution. Northern Virginia, the world’s largest market for cloud computing infrastructure, continues to make headlines as power availability is quickly becoming a source of global tension. Last fall, Dominion Energy received client orders that could double data center capacity in Virginia by 2028, with a projected market size of 10 gigawatts by 2035. A huge leap compared to the state’s current data center power use of 2.67 gigawatts.

Hyperscale data centers, which can house over 5,000 servers, require an incredible amount of power. Companies that own these facilities, like Amazon Web Services and Google, are utilizing more efficient energy sources and recycling systems than traditional data centers to maximize server capacity. To optimize building material usage, existing data centers can undergo enhancements to accommodate increased power and space requirements. These upgrades involve integrating advanced technologies, such as high-power chips, servers, and high-density racks, to enhance storage capacity and performance, thereby extending the lifespan of the data centers.

Additionally, companies are adopting recycling practices for older equipment, contributing to the production of new technology and servers. These comprehensive upgrades effectively renovate existing data centers to operate at higher capacities and with greater efficiency, ensuring their continued utility in the digital landscape.

Modular construction for efficiency

Building ground-up data centers can pose challenges, such as construction delays, unexpected environmental damages, and supply chain constraints. Given these barriers, it’s no surprise that companies are relying on modular data center solutions to keep up a competitive advantage. These prefabricated modules are easily scalable and can be designed to a client’s specific needs. Infrastructure requirements, such as power distribution, IT, plumbing, and HVAC, can be integrated into the module design to make up an entire facility or a hybrid of pre-built and built support space.

Community engagement

As data center construction continues to grow at a rapid rate globally, local communities are posing concerns over how much power data centers consume and the aesthetic threat they may pose. To avoid the inevitable opposition, companies must engage the proposed site to inform the project’s narrative. Leaning into the positives, such as job creation, academic initiatives, and better connectivity, can steer negative opinions. Engaging the community with plans of the site and proposed renderings can allow developers to demonstrate the care taken to ensure a thoughtful, low-impact facility.

Going nuclear

Competing with homes and other industries for power on the existing grid poses potential blackouts for hyperscale, enterprise, and colocation providers. In an effort to expand massively and move toward net-zero emissions, nuclear power could be the answer. The green energy source minimizes transmission losses and provides a steady base load for data center operations, enhancing grid reliability and sustainability. To combat failed attempts at implementing giant nuclear power plants, small modular reactors (SMRs) promise a cost-effective and safe alternative as they are built from preapproved designs at a manageable size with factory components.


As the online world continues to spin faster on its axis, the constant drum of “future proofing” pushes data center leaders to strategize their near- and long-term growth, but little has changed. AI presents challenges for live load capacity, cooling, and connectivity. But current data center requirements set forth by clients typically do not include building space for heavier racks and air-cooling systems, so the design can only go so far to accommodate more demands. The need to renovate existing data centers to accommodate the future will be an ongoing challenge.

By embracing these trends, companies can position themselves to build innovative data ecosystems that can survive an uncertain future.