The global data center market continues to grow despite the pandemic and will experience a high growth trajectory over the coming years due to the rise in hyperscale data centers, investments, data creation and consumption, and data traffic volumes fueled by emerging technologies, such as 5G, edge, internet of things, and artificial intelligence/machine learning. Other factors contributing to the market include enterprise outsourcing, hybrid-cloud adoption, and numerous data center activities in emerging economies. With most developments happening in Asia-Pacific and North America, hyperscale data centers are forecast to increase from 509 in 2019 to 890 in 2025. Asia-Pacific is anticipated to hold a majority share of hyperscale data centers globally at more than 40% by 2030. The massive wave of investment activity from special purpose acquisition companies (SPAC) and marquee investors in the data center industry is expected to take mergers and acquisitions to the next level in the coming years.
Uninterruptible power supply (UPS) batteries are essential to data center operations and uptime. Lead acid batteries are the preferred choice for UPS systems due to the data centers’ mission-critical nature and the batteries’ long track record of solid performance, low cost, and lack of competing alternatives. However, their market dominance is likely to be shaken as technological advancements in the electric vehicles industry have made lithium-ion batteries a highly viable alternative economically and technologically. Lithium-ion batteries present higher energy density, longer cycle life, smaller footprint, and reduced cooling costs as they can withstand high temperatures. While lead acid batteries still account for the vast majority of UPS batteries, lithium-ion batteries are forecast to witness rapid penetration and increased revenue share over the forecast period from 2021 to 2030. Nonetheless, the lead acid battery segment is estimated to grow steadily but slowly because of technological advancements, such as thin plate pure lead batteries, that will optimize cost per cycle, enhance design life and total cost of ownership, increase float life, and enable fast charging.
Evolving data center trends, such as increasing power density, peak shaving, demand response programs, and grid frequency regulation, also push data center operators, especially large ones, to reevaluate their UPS battery preferences. Some large operators have switched to advanced batteries meeting these trends, with many more expected to follow suit in the short term. Tiers 2 and 3 operators are expected to switch as well in the medium and long terms.
Apart from lithium-ion batteries, other UPS battery chemistries have emerged in the market such as sodium-ion and nickel-zinc. However, these are still nascent and have yet to make an impact on the total market. Furthermore, only a few participants specialize in these technologies. These new battery chemistries are highly promising and have the potential to gain market share in the long run, competing against both lead acid and lithium-ion batteries.