In many ways, the internet is synonymous with data centers. Without data centers to house the racks upon racks of servers that keep network systems up and running, the internet simply would not be possible. Falling computer costs and the spread of smartphones have greatly expanded internet access, making it an essential part of life in the developed (and even the developing) world.
Here are 4 reasons why data centers are absolutely essential to the internet, both as it exists today and for where it’s expected to go in the future.
With more than 3.7 billion people using the internet, the amount of data being generated each day is difficult to comprehend. Estimates based on 2017 usage rates put the number at approximately 2.5 quintillion bytes, but the figure is accelerating every day. What accounts for all of that data? Here’s a quick look at some of the data that’s being produced every minute:
The United States alone uses 2,657,700 GB of internet data every minute. While the average internet user doesn’t give much thought to the logistics of data management and network infrastructure, all of that information doesn’t just float freely in the air waiting to be summoned to their computer screen. Data has to reside somewhere, and since the early days of the internet, data centers have been the place to store it.
There are more than 500,000 data center facilities around the world with an estimated capacity of 1400 exabytes. Considering that 1 exabyte is equivalent to about 1 billion gigabytes, that’s a massive amount of storage to accommodate the ever-increasing demands of the internet. Fortunately, improvements in memory have both increased storage capacity and reduced power demands for accessing it. As internet usage continues to expand and intensify, data centers will be critical to meeting its needs. More hyperscale facilities, which may soon account for half of all data traffic, are already under construction while edge data centers proliferate across emerging markets to deliver faster services.
Public cloud services have transformed the way organizations across the world approach and manage their network infrastructure. Whether companies are utilizing public cloud resources or implementing hybrid or multi-cloud solutions through a data center, the cloud-based “as a service” model has become an integral part of today’s internet.
Setting aside the fact that data centers house the servers that make cloud computing possible in the first place, data centers should also play a critical role in the network strategies of individual companies. A quality facility with robust connectivity options and data center components can help organizations access and utilize cloud services faster and cheaper than most of them could provide through an on-premises solution. These facilities, along with their MSP partners, offer a range of bundled services that allow companies to build customized network infrastructures that help them drive business results and grow more effectively.
The proliferation of internet of things (IoT) devices is already reshaping customer demands and redefining the ways organizations gather and utilize information. Gartner predicts that more than 20 billion devices will be connected to the internet by 2020, generating an estimated 800 zettabytes (or 800 trillion gigabytes) of data. Much of this unstructured information will feed into “big data” analytics programs that attempt to derive actionable business insights that can translate into competitive advantages.
Data centers will be crucial to managing and harnessing the potential of IoT technology. With so many devices operating on the periphery of networks, edge computing architectures that locate key processing tasks closer to end users and the points where data is collected will be invaluable for combating latency. Edge data centers will not only serve as relay stations for IoT devices, handling processing tasks too great for the devices and too time sensitive to be sent back to the network core, but also as extensions of the network. This helps deliver greater levels of connectivity and service to previously underserved markets.
The spread of high-speed network connections has allowed video to dominate the internet in ways were unthinkable in the early days of dial-up telephone connections. Video made up 51 percent of all internet traffic in 2016, with a single provider (Netflix) accounting for 37 percent of all streaming traffic in North America.
Streaming providers face the difficult challenge of providing content with minimal buffering delays. This speed is a byproduct of latency, which measures the amount of time it takes for data to physically travel from one point to another. Since data is bound by the laws of physics, distance matters. A data center in Cleveland, for example, can stream content to customers in Columbus faster than to customers in Milwaukee. The difference may come down to a matter of milliseconds, but when it comes to video, delays become cumulative, causing footage to buffer and fragment. By locating edge data centers closer to end users and caching high demand content for speedy delivery, streaming providers can offer faster, more responsive services to all of their customers.
Data centers have been an integral part of internet infrastructure from its inception and they will continue to play an important role in its future. As organizations seek to deliver new services, streamline operations, and accommodate their data storage and analysis needs, data centers will offer them a variety of options that are best suited to the particular demands of their industry.