Inside the Crystal Ball: Five Data Center Trends for 2020 and Beyond

data center ebook copyStanding at more than one million square feet, the United States Intelligence Community’s Utah Data Center is one of the world’s largest infrastructures.  Costing nearly $2 billion, the site boasts storage capacity of almost 12 exabytes.  That’s impressive considering the first electronic programmable computer was turned on at the University of Pennsylvania less than 75 years ago.  Data centers are evolving at unprecedented speeds, largely driven by such developments as cloud, big data, and IoT.  These emerging trends are placing enhanced focus on “what’s next,” with analysts looking closely into their crystal balls to determine the future data center.

The IT infrastructure market is undergoing a digital transformation like none other.  Gartner Group even forecasts 75 percent of all businesses will move toward a digital infrastructure by 2020.

As yet another decade comes to an end, it’s critical for CIOs to take a closer look into today’s data center – where it is now, and what’s coming next.  As I see it, several new directions are emerging in the future data center – each aimed at managing the flood of digital information, easing the transition to digital infrastructures, and adapting to the heightened requirement for speed and efficiency.  In all, I believe there are five key trends CIOs must identify and prepare for now – and they range from big data and IoT to greater demands on energy efficiency.

So, without further delay, I bring to you “The Data Center Big 5”:

  1. Modular Data Center: Big Data and IoT will significantly transform the size and scope of next-generation data centers.  While there’s pressure to evolve IT scalability and capacity, other demands point toward consolidation.  The competing requirements accentuate the drive toward modular data centers.  This approach translates to either a pre-fabricated infrastructure, or deployment delivering infrastructures in a modular, quick and flexible package.  And adoption is skyrocketing – with the market set to reach $40 billion by 2018.  As speed and efficiency requirements continue to rise, demand is only expected to grow.
  1. Software-Defined Networking: One trend gaining traction is software defined networking (SDN).  Expected to break $8 billion by 2018, the SDN model decouples network topology and traffic management from network hardware – allowing rich interaction between application workloads and network infrastructures.  This significantly enhances network power, while simplifying the IT environment and management.  SDN will continue to build traction, as we expect a 25 percent annual increase in network traffic and acceleration of network speeds by 10x of current capacity.
  1. Energy Efficiency: With growth of data center size and scope, it’s not surprising energy consumption is also on the rise.  The Natural Resources Defense Council claims waste and inefficiency in U.S. data centers will rise from 91B kWh to 140 kWh.  This leads companies toward renewable energy – including wind, solar, hydro, wave/current, and hydrothermal resources.  Fuel cells – including Bloom Energy – translate into cost efficiencies and lower carbon footprints.  Another advancement is energy conservation hardware from improved server efficiency and density.  Modular infrastructures will also contribute to this trend.  Given these advancements, many experts believe – by 2025 — it will require less energy to produce the same level of computing performance.
  2. Data Center Management and Operations: Typically, data center management is a cumbersome, time-intensive process – with manual tracking and incident response distracting from strategic initiatives.  Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) is an effective path to automate management processes, consolidating servers and locations while expanding computational and transactional task performance on the edge of computing.  IDC reports more than 40 percent of DCIM vendors expect the industry will move toward self-healing technology.  Software-defined data centers will provide the real-time virtual resource allocation required to meet the new demands brought on by Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data.Also contributing to automation is the growth of outsourcing.  By enlisting a solution provider for infrastructure management, companies can focus on service specialization and long-term initiatives.  A valued third-party also helps avoid costly downtime and security breaches – all of which damages a company’s reputation.  Additionally, colocation and the resulting automation powers just-in-time consumption, automatically “dialing up” and down IT infrastructure as necessary.
  1. Interconnected Frameworks: The demand on network capacity, scalability and storage has never been greater.  The rise of IoT, interconnected applications, and cloud services all require proximity to reliable and secure resources plus faster access to data.  This is a huge opportunity for service providers to lead with strategies driven by interconnections across solution providers.  In addition to powering lower latency and higher throughput, these relationships ensure customers can leverage multiple operators for applications.Distributed computing environments will become more prevalent, based on connectivity to multiple cloud and infrastructures and the weaving of application components.  Master Service Agreements for managing multiple SLAs will be essential, guaranteeing solution providers offer the best service package designed for this framework.

The Crystal Ball

The data center barely resembles what it once was nearly a quarter century ago.  Trends such as Big Data, cloud and IoT drive heightened requirements for speed, efficiency and processing power – resulting in greater costs and power usage.  To address future needs, many are turning toward the power of IT service providers to meet these requirements – all while positioning the environment for future growth. While there’s no crystal ball to accurately predict the future, all signs point to increased dependency on solution partners to tackle the road ahead.

Read more about CenturyLink’s top data center predictions – and what you can do to prepare now – in the 5 Ways to Future-Proof your Data Center eBook, or, view this on-demand webinar, where I examine the 5 key trends discussed in this article with Jabez Tan from Structure Research.  It may help you create an actionable path to transform your data center for the future.

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