Morgan Stanley
  • Thoughts on the Market Podcast
  • Apr 18, 2024

A Central Piece of the GenAI Puzzle


Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I’m Max Yates from the European Capital Goods team. Along with my colleagues bringing you a variety of perspectives, today I'll focus on the critical element of the AI revolution. 

It's Thursday, April 18, at 2pm in London. 

Over the last few weeks, several of my colleagues have come on to the show to talk about the exponential growth of data centers and just what it will take to power the GenAI revolution. Stephen Byrd, Morgan Stanley's Head of Global Sustainability, forecasts that in 2027 data center power consumption just from GenAI will equal 80 percent of the consumption from all data centers in 2022.

This shows the sheer scale of necessary additions and upgrades. And it also makes clear that the AI push provides very significant opportunities for Electrical Equipment companies. It’s these businesses that are the picks and shovels of the AI revolution. These companies provide key solutions such as Data Center Infrastructure Management software, connected equipment, racks, switchgears, and last but not least, cooling. 

Keep in mind that in this breakneck AI race, ever-increasing efficiency is essential. So, imagine we’re inside an actual data center. What you’d see is a huge number of racks, the steel frameworks that house the servers, cables, and other equipment. The power needed to run GenAI then creates a lot of heat.

Our recent work on the data center market suggests two key takeaways when it comes to the electrical equipment.

First, there’s a significant imbalance in supply-demand. Data center vacancy rates and rental prices all point to an intensifying capacity shortage. This explains why the top 10 cloud providers have increased their capital expenditures this year by 26 per cent. Equipment shortages and lead times are still an issue in the industry and large electrical equipment suppliers have a clear competitive advantage at the moment, with their stronger supply chains and ability to actually deliver this equipment. 

The second thing we found from our work, there are well-known and less well-known ways to deal with increasing power density. Now why is power density rising? Because what we’re trying to do is cram more high-power chips into the same amount of space. There’s more power per rack, higher computing workload that all has to be accommodated into less floor space. This higher power density, however, requires more powerful cooling solutions. 

But there’s also smaller changes that can support airflow management that are less talked about in the industry. This is things like busways, to reduce cable density and promote airflow. Smart equipment provides information on power consumption. And another key element is rear-door cooling, which pushes airflow through the servers.

The other theme that’s gaining traction in the industry to facilitate a faster ramp up is the idea of modular data centers. This helps equipment suppliers plan supply chains but also customers to quickly ramp up and meet the new data center demand with more standardized data center offerings. However, there’s not yet an industry standard to manage higher data center power and rack density for AI. There will be new builds. There will also be data center upgrades. However, there’s no consensus yet on exactly how the power equipment will be configured, and when the data centers will be upgraded. And in what style and what way.      

This is clearly a dynamic space to watch, and we’ll be keeping you updated.

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GenAI will likely drive the exponential growth of data centers. Listen as our Capital Goods Analyst shares key takeaways on the electrical equipment central to the data center market.