Most people in the tech sector know data centers are growing in size, but they might not stop to think about how content from apps contributes to the expansion of such facilities.
Let's explore several reasons why apps are instrumental in the growth and demand for data centers.
One of the tricky aspects of apps is that their data needs vary depending on several factors. A streaming app like Netflix not only uses more data than a simple game app, but it must deliver data to users in a near-seamless way to enhance the overall viewership experience. Also, as an app expands into new global markets, its user base typically increases, as does the demand on the data centers used by the app.
The number of people using an app could spike during particular periods, too. For example, a GPS navigation app — which requires a constant connection for updated information — might see more frequent use when people travel during the holiday season.
Some of the most popular apps have particularly demanding data center needs because of the enormous sizes of their user bases, too. In 2014, Tim Cook revealed Apple's iMessage app handled approximately 40 billion messages per day for its iCloud users.
Compensating for the uptick in users frequently means data centers have to make server upgrades to deliver faster performance. Fortunately, such updates are often economical. Transitioning from a server speed of 10 Gb/second to 25 Gb/second increases speed by two-and-a-half times at a 1.3 to 1.5 cost increase.
A 2017 report from Cushman & Wakefield predicted data center growth of up to 14 percent over a two- to five-year period following the publication of the statistics. An analysis of the findings mentions mobile apps as one of the driving factors behind those results. That's mainly because apps consume higher amounts of bandwidth as they become more advanced.
Additionally, some apps feature virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) components. Since they typically give new perspectives as people move through their environments, those apps place higher-than-average demands on data centers.
The launch of Apple's ARKit in 2017 spurred developers to create AR apps. Statistics show people are keenly interested in trying AR apps, too. Statistics show that since Apple made the ARKit available in September 2017, there have been more than 13 million downloads of associated AR content.
On the streaming music side of things, Spotify recently opened up more functionality for its non-premium users, including 15 personalized playlists based on individuals' music-listening history. That capability works by keeping track of data about how people use the app, then serving up new content after analyzing it.
Spotify hopes the change will lead to more engagement. As mentioned earlier, growing user numbers cause the generation of more data, thereby meaning Spotify may need progressively larger data centers.
Security is another factor stimulating the growth of data centers. Companies are continually under threat from cybercriminals eager to steal data and potentially sell it on the black market.
Some of the data breaches of 2018 compromised the details of people who placed online orders with Panera Bread, as well as those who interacted with the MyFitnessPal app from UnderArmour.
As companies and consumers become aware of the massive reach and potential long-term damage of these breaches, they become more insistent on only offering or using apps with tight built-in security. If those apps store data in the cloud, as many do, the entities that provide cloud storage must assure enterprise-level customers of top-grade security.
As such, data centers often go through periods of growth in non-size-related ways, such as by periodically making security upgrades to satisfy customers. That's because the aim is to store large amounts of data in ways that keep information out of hackers' hands.
Some companies decide to build data centers for their apps, especially if they feel their representatives know the apps' functionality and their user bases best. The options to store apps on or offsite provides establishments with flexibility, while propelling data centers' growth.
Most brands know it's not feasible to be fully dependent on in-house data centers, and they still use offsite facilities to meet specific needs. That reality should help data centers continue to prosper and grow in size and profits even as internal data centers get built.
As apps get more advanced and data-dependent, data centers must adapt to remain competitive and appealing to their customers. Those that do should find app companies continue to help data centers expand and improve.
Kayla Matthews writes about data centers and big data for several industry publications, including The Data Center Journal, Data Center Frontier and insideBIGDATA. To read more posts from Kayla, you can follower her personal tech blog at ProductivityBytes.com.