As new international and domestic players are expected to expand data centres in Thailand, the country should prepare policies to cater to rising supply and demand.
Supparat Sivapetchranat Singhara na Ayutthaya, chief executive of hyperscale data centre firm ST Telemedia Global Data Centres (Thailand), said the country should set up a data centre council to propose industry policies to policymakers.
The council would work with the public and private sectors to deal with challenges and create new investment opportunities in the data centre segment, he said.
Mr Supparat said data from the International Energy Agency showed the amount of electricity consumed by data centres globally last year tallied 240-340 terawatt-hours (TWh).
This is consistent with data from Statista, which reported hyperscale data centre energy demand from 2020-2021 increased by 76.2TWh and 86.6TWh, respectively.
This reflects the growing trend of electrification in digital infrastructure, largely caused by increasing demand for cloud computing, big data and artificial intelligence.
Fred Fitzalan Howard, data centre lead in Asia-Pacific for property consultant Knight Frank, said many US and Chinese cloud providers want to increase their exposure to Thailand, aiming to lease substantial capacity to establish dedicated cloud regions.
According to Knight Frank Thailand, finding suitable sites for data centres has presented a significant challenge for investors.
Moreover, the country's total IT capacity per person remains relatively low compared with more mature markets such as Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong.
In the first quarter of 2023, Thailand's aggregate supply of data centres reached 269 megawatts, which represented a nearly 30% increase from the end of 2022, according to Knight Frank.
Over the past few years, a substantial number of international data centre operators entered the Thai market, transforming the landscape and giving rise to hyper-scalers -- large-scale data centres.
Prior to this, the country had a limited number of data centres with capacities of up to 5MW. The establishment of new facilities has led to the emergence of data centres with capacities reaching 10MW or higher, plus scalability options as per demand.
Meanwhile, Singapore, the region's most established data centre market, has implemented new restrictions, including specific criteria and a limited quota of 60MW for new capacity each year.
These tighter regulations could allow regional peers to capitalise on growing demand for data centres, attracting foreign players seeking alternative locations for their operations, said the consultancy.
On a global scale, the focus is on improving energy efficiency in data centres, aiming to increase power usage effectiveness and enhance rack density to maximise resource utilisation.
Many operators are exploring innovative solutions such as liquid cooling for efficient thermal management and incorporating renewable energy integration to minimise environmental impact and achieve sustainability goals, said Knight Frank.
Korn Narongdej, chief executive of developer Raimon Land Plc, said the company plans to collaborate with Nautilus Data Technologies, a US-based firm specialising in floating data centres using patented water-cooling technology. Plans for sizing and location selection have begun, with decisions expected by year-end, he said. Potential sites are likely to be near rivers, seas or ponds, particularly in industrial estates.
Data centres are a new economic driver, propelled by increased cloud and e-commerce usage, said Mr Korn.