KickStart Europe 2024 – Key Takeaways

14th March 2024

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KickStart Europe | 26th & 27th February 2024 | Amsterdam, Netherlands 


KickStart Europe is an annual conference focusing on trends and investments in tech and digital infrastructure. Spread across two days, the conference brings together professionals in the digital industry and digital infrastructure of cloud, connectivity and data centres. Founded in 2018 by Stijn Grove, this event has grown to be one of the must-attend data centre conferences in Europe – so of course, Soben’s data centre experts were in attendance! 


Soben Director, Pieter Schaap returned to KickStart Europe with Strategic Partnerships Executive, Conor Ford. From the huge focus on AI (Artificial intelligence), to the pressing need to diversify the industry, Pieter shares his key takeaways from the event.  


All eyes on AI 

With the rise of AI, latency is becoming less of a constraint, creating opportunities in new markets. All eyes recently turned to the Nordics, where the abundance of green power and more favourable environmental conditions create a perfect setting for AI advancements.   

However, developers are already looking beyond the Nordics to countries like Belgium, Spain, Italy and Scotland, as well as some Eastern European sites. At Kickstart, we heard from several developers who are not afraid to attack the new tier markets. KevlinX were actively involved in discussions throughout the event, alongside KAO Data, where Doug Loewe has recently been named CEO. Jochem Steman of  Serverfarm offered very insightful comments. And Equinix’s   Arno van Gennip delivered a much-needed reality check for us all.  

Arno warned that even with swift technological advancements and the tremendous speed of sustainability initiatives, we are not ready to deploy AI facilities at the scale the market is demanding. It is key that governments, grid providers and other stakeholders, alongside data centre developers and operators embrace the need for change now. 

In light of the continued uncertainty, we heard from developers who are moving to a more product agnostic approach, whereby their data centres can be designed and partially built to suit either single tenancy hyperscale, multi-tenant, traditional co-location or even AI clients. 


Cooling tech? The jury’s still out 

Two days with the industry’s leading thinkers at KickStart provided the opportunity to really get under the skin of what the AI boom could mean. Discussions highlighted the transition towards more liquid cooling solutions in traditional markets to meet the escalating demands for higher density applications. However, this transition is not without its challenges. The journey towards standardisation is important to effectively accommodate AI and other high-density workloads in existing data centre facilities. Each data centre currently stands as a unique entity, so heavy standardisation efforts are urgently needed to facilitate this technological evolution. 

Are we moving forward with immersive cooling, direct-to-chip or other solutions? No one has the answer at the moment, and whilst some parties were trying to push consensus in a certain direction, the majority of speakers remained uncertain as to the winning technological solution for these tremendous cooling needs. 

On several occasions there was a call-to-action for the industry to take charge and not wait for legislation changes or hyperscale developers to set the pace, but start working groups, including developers, contractors, equipment vendors and designers, to change the data centre landscape pro-actively with sustainable and scalable solutions. One thing’s for sure, the emerging discussion in this space is one to watch.  


Modularisation depends on collaboration 

Modularisation came out as a promising option, with potential in both retrofitting existing data centres and spearheading greenfield developments. However, its full potential can only be realised with wider alignment and collaboration across the industry. A great example of a developer / operator that has embraced modularisation is NorthC Data Centres. Ronald van den Bosch was one of the few speakers that managed to convey a clear message to the audience around modularisation and standardisation – for regional co-location data centres with a controllable megawatt requirement. 

Modularisation has a lot going for it, with its speed-to-market advantage and as an enabler to keep facilities close to the preferred 100% occupancy rate. You simply scale as and when demand goes up. And because your MEP and whitespace solutions are standardised and fabricated offsite, this approach can generate an enormous amount of flexibility. Having the option to deploy modules to your site of choice means you don’t have to wait to start fabrication, but can stock semi-finished products pro-actively and use them to cater for your scaling demands. 

Industry-wide collaboration was a common theme throughout the KickStart event. As with readiness for AI and sustainability initiatives, it was clear that the entire sector must come together to utilise modularisation effectively and drive substantial benefits across the board. An important part of this transformation is the involvement of equipment manufacturers in shaping new market standards. Their involvement is needed to navigate the complexities of existing constraints and to pave the way for innovative developments in the field. Market leaders such as ABB, LeGrand, Siemens and Stulz were receptive to facilitate this industry transformation and although the road ahead is long, the attitude of the equipment manufacturers is positive and promising for the future. 


The diversity imperative 

Last but not least, discussions at KickStart touched on the ongoing resource challenges faced in the industry. The data centre world is aging and predominantly male, with an urgent need for a more diverse and youthful talent pool. The pressure is on everyone in the industry to actively engage and create a workforce that reflects the dynamism needed for sustained growth and innovation. It’s something that we at Soben have at the top of our people agenda.  

KickStart Europe allows the industry to have meaningful discussions and insights into the future of data centres and the need for industry-wide collaboration and adaptation. As we navigate the evolving landscape, it is clear that availability of land and green power play a pivotal role, but success lies in concerted efforts, standardisation, and inclusive practices that pave the way for a sustainable and prosperous future. One of which, I’m looking forward to seeing. 


To learn more about how Soben can help you develop your projects, contact Pieter on the details below:  

Pieter Schaap


[email protected]  


Data Centre Trends 2024  

In the fight to meet the demand for new data centres, the path ahead is far from simple. From power problems and skills shortages, to soaring material costs and lead times that refuse to return to pre-Covid dimensions. But for those who successfully navigate the challenges, there will be reward aplenty. That’s why it’s more important than ever to stay ahead of the curve. Packed with experience, insights, and advice from our data centre specialists around the world, discover the top ten trends that are shaping the industry in 2024. Read the report here.   

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