Top 2020 Data Center Trends Impacting Your Infrastructure and Operations

By: Ernest Sampera on March 13, 2020

Today’s data centers don’t much resemble the mainframes familiar to previous generations of IT personnel. Modern facilities are wonders of computing technology, featuring state-of-the-art high-density servers and revolutionary cooling systems. They also offer a wide range of services that are accessible to even some of the smallest startups, providing them with infrastructure resources that would have been unthinkable in previous decades.

Colocation data centers are continuing to drive innovation to provide their customers with better, and often customized, solutions for their networking and computing challenges. Keeping pace with the next generation of data center trends can help companies identify which services are right for them and learn how data centers can push their businesses forward. If these organizations don’t know what’s available to them, they will have difficulty charting the future course of their IT and digital transformation strategy.

10 Data Center Trends to be Aware of in 2020

1. Colocation Services

As the costs of building a private data center continue to escalate and the versatility of third-party data centers expands, more companies are looking at colocation solutions as an ideal situation for their IT infrastructure. While renting space in a facility might not sound like it would qualify as a data center technologies trend, it’s important to remember that today’s data centers are entirely different beasts from the old data repositories of previous decades. The modern data center is a connectivity bonanza, offering organizations access to almost every digital service imaginable. Colocation isn’t just about renting floor space; it also means leveraging the enhanced power and cooling capabilities of data centers to reduce ongoing infrastructure costs.

In most cases, colocation data centers give customers the tools to manage and oversee their infrastructure that are far beyond anything they could afford to put in place in their own private facility. From business intelligence software that gives unparalleled visibility into the actual usage patterns of their network to robust asset tracking and 24x7x365 remote hands support, colocation allows small to medium-sized companies the resources to compete directly with their bigger, more resourceful competitors.

2. Virtualization Technologies

Perhaps the most exciting data center trend over the last decade has been the widespread push toward software-defined infrastructures. Rather than simply serving as a storehouse for data, a software-defined data center (SDDC) virtualizes the computing and storage power available through its servers into software form, which is then bundled and sold to customers as a service. This process allows multiple users to install and manage their own services on the same physical server. Each virtualized server is cordoned off from the others, ensuring both privacy and flexibility. Since customers are purchasing virtualized assets in a software-defined infrastructure, it’s incredibly easy to scale them to suit their needs or relocate them to take advantage of a data center’s bundled services.

Server virtualization and containerization have had a tremendous impact on data center efficiency. Software-defined infrastructures allow facilities to offer services at low costs while also keeping power and cooling demands in check. High-density servers running heavy virtualized workloads may consume a lot of electricity and generate a lot of heat, but it’s far more efficient to host multiple customers on a single high-density server than on several lower density units. Those cost savings can be passed along to customers, allowing them to invest in additional services beyond server space.

3. Hybrid IT Deployments

Cloud computing is one of the most consequential next-generation data center trends affecting businesses today. When cloud services first became available, many companies jumped in with both feet, lifting and shifting or re-architecting their legacy systems to migrate the whole of their network into the cloud. While this worked out well for some of them, other companies found that the security concerns and unexpected expenses of operating in a purely public cloud environment didn’t make sense for their business. Some companies opted to leave the cloud altogether, transitioning instead into a colocation solution or taking advantage of a data center’s software-defined infrastructure to build a private cloud in virtualized servers.

But some companies still need the services of the public cloud. Responding to that need, data centers have developed hybrid cloud architecture and multi-cloud solutions that allow companies to take advantage of the power of public cloud computing while still enjoying the security and control of a private network. Hybrid cloud architecture stores sensitive and valuable data in a private network while also establishing connections to a public cloud service. This architecture allows companies to protect and control their data while still using it in a public cloud environment. Since the data resides in the private network and only travels into the public cloud under heavy encryption, hybrid clouds provide a peace of mind that simply doesn’t exist in a purely public cloud. Multi-cloud deployments work in a similar fashion, but incorporate multiple public cloud services, either through a single vendor or best-of-breed strategy.

4. Edge Computing

If cloud computing is the darling of the previous decade, edge computing might well be the next major trend for the data center industry. Edge computing architectures expand the reach of a typical cloud network by pushing key processing functions to the edge of the network, closer to where the data itself is gathered. Traditional cloud computing requires collected data to travel back to the core of the network where it can be processed by the central server. Since data is constrained by the laws of physics, it doesn’t travel there instantaneously, resulting in latency that slows streaming content services, medical devices, industrial scanners, and other devices.

By processing data closer to the edge of the network where it’s collected, edge computing can greatly increase speed and responsiveness. As Internet of Things (IoT) devices become more common each year, the number of devices capable of handling that processing load is increasing to the point at which edge computing is more viable than ever. Edge data centers are also being used to extend network reach and increase speed, providing more powerful processing resources that can handle tasks too big for IoT devices, but not large enough to send back to the core of the network.

5. Hyperscale Data Centers

As more organizations turn to cloud computing solutions, the demand for the data center infrastructure that supports them is increasing as well. Hyperscale facilities are substantially larger than most enterprise data centers, sometimes housing thousands upon thousands of servers. Most of them are operated by the biggest names in the tech industry, such as Google, Apple, and Microsoft, because these companies offer the type of cloud computing services that require such an immense scale. Microsoft’s Quincy, WA data center, for example, utilizes 24,000 miles of network cable, the equivalent of six Amazon Rivers.

With demand for cloud and social media services showing no sign of decline, companies are investing in the construction of more of these massive facilities. There were more than 500 data centers that could be classified as hyperscale at the end of 2019, and another 151 are scheduled for construction in 2020. These facilities will be crucial to managing the massive amounts of data generated by virtual reality services, big data social media analytics, and the information being gathered by IoT devices.

6. Innovative Cooling Technology

Data centers have long relied upon conventional air conditioning infrastructure to meet their cooling needs. Considering that cooling is responsible for a huge percentage of data center energy consumption (up to 40 percent), it’s hardly a surprise that many facilities have focused on improving their cooling strategies as a way to become more efficient. The power-intensive processors required to power modern AI applications are also generating more heat than traditional cooling infrastructure can handle, forcing data centers to take new approaches to meet their cooling needs.

Fortunately, AI-applications provide an ideal solution with their ability to dynamically monitor and regulate the environment of a data center. Google recently handed over control of the environmental system in one of its hyperscale data centers to a DeepMind AI program after several years of successful testing. The program’s minute adjustments in cooling performance translated into significant energy savings within the first several months. Liquid cooling technology has also come into its own, both in the form of direct to chip and full-immersion solutions. As high-performance processors begin to generate too much heat to be managed by air-cooled systems, liquid cooling will surely become a more cost-effective and practical means of regulating the data center environment efficiently.

7. Data Center Industry Talent Demands

At 2018’s Data Center World convention, two Google data center executives made headlines by pointing out that the data center industry is facing a major talent crisis. The industry’s workforce is predominantly older and male. According to a 2018 survey of industry-wide data center operations, 56 percent of respondents had more than 20 years of experience while only five percent had less than five. More revealing, women made up less than six percent of the workforce, which only 30 percent of respondents saw as an issue.

Although the data center industry is growing rapidly, a 2017 study found that 81 percent of IT leaders said it was difficult to find qualified candidates. With so many experienced workers transitioning out of the workforce, it’s more important than ever for data centers to take an aggressive approach to hiring and training candidates to take their place before significant institutional knowledge goes out the door with them.

8. Artificial Intelligence

Both artificial intelligence and more specialized machine learning applications have proliferated in recent years, and 2020 promises to unleash a new frontier of innovation in the field. The challenge for many organizations is securing the massive amounts of processing power needed for these applications. With sophisticated, adaptive algorithms being utilized for tasks that might once have been seen as trivial, the demand for processing power will continue to grow.

The efficient infrastructures and connectivity capabilities of today’s data centers provide the ideal platform for organizations to access those resources. Whether they’re storing their own powerful servers in an efficient colocation environment or using their facility as a direct on-ramp to access the expansive power of cloud computing, data centers have an important role to play in the ongoing growth of AI technology and applications.

9. Storage Technology Innovation

Between the falling costs of solid-state drives (SDDs) and the development of exciting new technologies like 5D memory crystals, organizations are investing heavily in the storage resources needed to accommodate the massive accumulation of data being generated over today’s networks. Social media data alone has forced companies to rethink their big data strategies in recent years, and the spread of 5G networks and IoT devices are sure to produce even more data that needs to be stored somewhere.

For many data centers, however, storage will be more about striving for efficiency rather than relying on innovation. That’s because traditional hard drive disks (HDDs) remain the preferred storage medium for many organizations due to their low cost and ready availability. Although the falling cost of alternative technologies will drive down demand for HDDs, they won’t be going anywhere in 2020.

10. Intelligent Monitoring

As more organizations shift away from private data centers, they will strive to find IT solutions that provide them with the same level of control and visibility they enjoyed from their on-premises solutions. Although those deployments tended to be inefficient and expensive to manage, companies like having the peace of mind that comes with knowing they have direct control over all aspects of their IT systems at all times. Public cloud services and some colocation providers may offer a lot of flexibility, but they also make it hard to see what’s going on with their assets in real-time.

Thanks to groundbreaking intelligent monitoring technologies like vXchnge’s award-winning in\site platform, colocation customers no longer have to surrender the control and visibility they once enjoyed with their private data solutions. Now they can not only take advantage of the superior data center infrastructure of a colocation provider, but also rest easy knowing that they can manage all aspects of their deployment as they see fit without having to work through a third party. This will greatly enhance IT flexibility and make it easier than ever for companies to facilitate their digital transformation.

These data center trends have already changed the industry significantly. Where data centers were once the exclusive concern of large companies, today they are providing smaller organizations with the ability to provide products and services more effectively than ever before. As data center technologies continue to evolve, these trends will surely give way to even more remarkable developments that drive innovation to another level.

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