Many children grow up with toys you’d expect: bicycles, stuffed animals, dolls, building blocks, etc. It wouldn’t be surprising to find a Magic-8 Ball in their arsenal that gives them ambiguous answers to the many seemingly important questions in childhood. Would you get that superhero costume you incessantly begged for? Will there be a snow day tomorrow, so you can play that new video game for hours? Was it going to rain and delay the baseball game you were practicing for? Most of the ball’s answers, generally along the lines of “reply hazy, try again”, disappointingly didn’t give you what you were looking for, but rather some ambivalent quip.

Similarly, there is no magic source that can definitively predict the future of the data center industry, but there are definitely ways to plan for it. I’m scheduled to join other data center professionals and industry thought leaders this week at the Datacenter Dynamics Enterprise Conference and Expo, March 14-15, in New York City. At 4 p.m. EST on day two of the event, I’ll be joining Dr. Julie Albright of the University of Southern California and Don Beaty of DLB Associates for a panel discussion titled “Plenary panel: Big ideas and 2020 crystal ball – end of conference round up.” This discussion will examine new technologies and trends in the data center industry and how these will affect current ones to shape the future of the data center industry.

Alliances for Assets

A relatively new trend that I expect to see dramatically affect the industry is the rise of colocation alliances. Though competition is fierce in many markets, most providers are successfully competing on value proposition rather than price alone. An increase in consolidation has resulted in huge partners picking up different assets, but they are typically present in some regions and not in others. Many providers that strongly compete in certain markets but not in others have formed allies with other companies to make up for gaps in their coverage.

 In my opinion, interwoven alliances between colocation and cloud providers will also proliferate over the next few years, enabling data center providers to offer a full solution without geographic limits. Companies have to realize that being open to alliances and partnerships is key in moving forward if they want a truly global solution. Not every workload will end up with their particular platform.

Operational Excellence

Another trend I see continuing throughout the industry is the focus on operational excellence. Whereas enterprises previously put tier level highest on their priority list when shopping for a data center, they’re now also looking at the operational piece. They realize that the way in which the data center is run is essential to its success. Empirical data shows that human error is the cause behind most data center outages.  Certainly, building the training, systems and protocols to limit the risk of downtime is essential.  Moving forward, these process improvements will continue to drive value through efficiency gains and uninterrupted service.

Security Concerns

There’s a lot of buzz around cybersecurity. Perimeter security continues to be of critical importance in the data center industry. It’s like an envelope that surrounds the hybrid IT stack, especially if virtualized workloads are bouncing around between execution venues. It’s crucial that any colocation provider rigorously enforces their security policies and offerings; otherwise, vulnerabilities may turn into major problems for both providers and their customers.

There are many other facets that will shape the data center industry of the future. While there’s no Magic-8 Ball that provides definitive guidance for providers and customers, the three areas mentioned above will most likely continue to be in the spotlight over the next few years. If you plan on attending DCD Enterprise, please take part in our event-round up discussion as we examine these issues and many more. If you’d like to learn more about what to look for in a data center provider, please read our technical brief, “Data Center Management Best Practices: The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection.”

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