All IDCA News

By Loading

14 Mar 2023

Share on social media:

Vision and Dreams In Evidence at DCW23 in London

Around 14,000 people from the Digital Infrastructure industry gathered March 8-9, 2023 at the ExCel London convention and exhibition center for DCW23, according to the event's organizers. There were more than 200 exhibitors, and an extensive conference program.

This event provided solid evidence of post-pandemic times, with a bustling show floor, packed conference rooms, and an air of exuberance and progress in the air.

IDCA was a Platinum Sponsor of DCW 23, and had a team of people from throughout the world in attendance. IDCA Chairman and CEO Mehdi Paryavi delivered a keynote on the industry's global state of affairs. IDCA Chief Media Officer and Board Member Bruce Taylor presented a session on sustainability with IDCA Chief Research Officer Roger Strukhoff (author of this post).

Additionally, IDCA held its own pre-conference Boardroom and Membership meetings at the Andaz Hotel in the City of London. The Boardroom was moderated by British television journalist Nik Gowing, and featured live attendees along with people zooming in from around the world. Africa was the Boardroom topic, while the Membership meeting centered around the UK and its Digital Infrastructure.

Data Centers Morph to Digital Infrastructure
Three things emerged in this reporter's experience at DCW23:

* The data center industry is truly metamorphosizing into the Digital Infrastructure industry. A walk through the exhibit spaces still found lots of cooling and cables and talk of electricity prices, but also a significant presence of cloud computing software and advisory services. If you build a data center today, you need to think through ahead of time what it will do, why it will do it, and how it will do it. Form factors are diverging both up (hyperscale) and down (edge, micro, hyperlocal).

* Sustainability has become table stakes. DCW23 was held just as the UK announced that domestic coal consumption had dropped to its lowest level since 1757, that is, 266 years ago. George II was king at that time, Samuel Johnson had just published his astounding, groundbreaking Dictionary of the English Language, the United Kingdom did not exist in its present form, and the United States did not exist at all. Britain's population was around 6 million people, compared to the UK population of about 67 million today. The trend toward renewables has become an irresistible force.

* The need for Digital Infrastructure worldwide is profound. IDCA's Africa Boardroom was replete with comments about the African Dream to attract investment and build the technology base required to vault its more than 1 billion people into the 21st century – with most commentors explicitly stating that these dreams will not need, do not need, the active participation of the United States.

The High-Level View Takes in the Entire World
That last statement merits some examination. The United States still has the world's largest economy, totaling about $23 trillion annually and 23% of the world's economy. It also has between 40% and 50% (depending on the source of information) of all the systems in the world's 8,000 datacenters, with a separate, enormous concentration of about 40% of that total in the metro Washington DC area.

The US is projected to have the world's largest economy for years, if not decades to come. China had been steadily catching and surpassing all others over the past 30 years, and looked positioned at one point to catch the US by 2030. But slower growth in China – do as much as anything else to the increasing difficulty of continuing to maintain high growth rates at this level – now extends projections of China taking leadership well into the 2040s.

But the disproportionate share of servers concentrated in the US is not healthy for the US or the world. Nor is it necessary for the US to either “try to fix” the situation through noblesse oblige or even as sole investors. There are tens of trillions of dollars of private equity located all over the world, with a large amount of it in sovereign funds.

Global public-private partnerships (PPP), a more-patient investment culture found in some foundations and family offices, and the ambitions of Xi Jinping are all major counterweights to the idea of the US (and its traditional impetus behind the World Bank and IMF) as being the major driver of global development.

The Dreams of Africa
Africa provides a great example of the world's server disparity, and dreams of creating vastly improved economies on the continent start with building new Digital Infrastructure and the sustainable electricity to power it.

IDCA Smart Nations Research recently produced its inaugural EESG Digital Readiness of Nations Index, which was presented in detail at the Membership meeting in London. It melds hundreds of parameters into a relative view of 147 nations, showing not only how nations have built out their Digital Infrastructure, but the relative challenges they all face in achieving further improvement.

The “EESG” signifies each nation's Economy, Environment, Social, and Government factors. Economy scores take existing Digital Infrastructure heavily into account, Environment focuses heavily on CO2 emissions, Social focuses on income disparity and other quality-of-life issues, and Government focuses on corruption and related institutional functionality.

Two key parameters came into focus in London: server density and economic efficiency. Everybody knows there is tremendous disparity in the world with respect to income and living conditions, physical infrastructure, internet service, and environmental conditions. But there is no disparity greater in the IDCA Smart Nations data than that of server density – measured as the number of servers per million population.

This metric has an almost unimaginable disparity of 250,000 to 1 from the highest density (in Denmark) to the lowest (in Eritrea and Niger). The world average is about 13,000, but this is number is highly skewed by the few countries who have most of the servers. The median is somewhere in the 500 to 1,000 range,which coincidentally is where China and India, the world's two most-populous countries, lie.

The disparity with mobile connectivity and internet connectivity overall is not as extreme. Satellite networks have come to the rescue for mobility, and more than 100 of the nations under purview of this research have managed to provision internet service to at least 50% of their people.

It Starts with Digital Infrastructure
But significant progress, throughout the nations of Africa and in other developing parts of the world, must start with Digital Infrastructure, which in turn must start with data centers and the sustainable power to feed it. Electricity grids also vary widely throughout the world, as does the percentage of renewable power in each country.

Where an average EU country consumes a steady state (IE, 24/7/365 average) of 700 or so watts per person, half of the world's nations consume 40% or less of this amount per person, and 40 nations consume 10% or less of this amount person.

Cost is Not the Issue
IDCA Smart Nations Research has studied these issues, and developed cost scenarios to develop the amount of sustainable electricity and Digital Infrastructure sufficient to bring about steady, significant improvement in all developing nations over the next two decades. The research also analyzes the number of IT-related jobs each country will need to match its skills with the demands of the emerging Digital Economies this type of initiative will entail.

The short answer on cost is that enough sustainable power and Digital Infrastructure to make a dramatic change can be built for a fraction of 1% of global GDP per year. With education, a broad estimate shows the developing world needs 100 million new IT-related jobs to start achieving its dreams.

IDCA Chairman and CEO Mehdi Paryavi outlined this vision as part of his presentation in London, and was echoed by IDCA panel participants and numerous conversations with DCW23 attendees.

The level of detail involved in changing the world can be intimidating when serious discussions of it begin. But what's more fun – and useful – than changing the world for the better. African Dreams were on display within the IDCA Boardroom at DCW23. These dreams and all others for developing nations are possible through research, collaboration, and tireless efforts to find the right investors for each project – then it's only a simple matter of execution.

Follow us on social media: