Forget the data centre you used to know

If you understood everything about the data centre sector ten years ago, but haven’t paid attention recently, then you can forget almost everything you thought you knew. The old sort of data centre you might remember is dead. Well, perhaps not dead but in a state of major revision and reinvention.


Under the old model, the huge monolithic data centre was the hub around which everything revolved. Workloads would be on a continual journey either to or from these massive facilities, latency an ever-present issue. Infrastructure was an unyielding and monolithic thing, the celestial centre around which lesser bodies would orbit.


The emphasis has flipped. The new centre of the universe is the workload itself, not the static infrastructure. What matters is granting the easiest, fastest and most secure access possible to data and applications to whoever or whatever needs it. As independent analyst firm Gartner has identified, the way workload placement is managed these days is not simply about ‘moving to the cloud’, it is about creating an infrastructure strategy based on workloads rather than physical buildings. Gartner predicts that by 2025, 85% of infrastructure strategies will integrate on-premise, colocation, cloud and edge delivery options. Today that model represents around 20% and rising. This is according to David Cappuccio, Distinguished VP Analyst with Gartner in his report entitled ‘Your Data Center May Not Be Dead, but It’s Morphing’.


There are other trends in the data centre ecosystem that could easily be construed as related to this one. Let’s consider the environmental viewpoint. Analyst firm IDC is projecting a 61% annual increase in data generation by 2025, which means that the power data centres consume is bound to increase. We’ve got to find greener ways of doing things. Transitioning to greener infrastructure is inevitable. Decentralising away from reliance on major hubs and extending compute power nearer to users is obviously a help. Big data centres will need to embrace energy-saving hardware, and there is plenty of evidence that they are. They also need to get smarter and feature more automation, greater use of AI and better reliability. Again, this is happening not least thanks to a new generation of processing power. 5G, and beyond that 6G, will also be an influence, again by helping to localise compute power. You can’t have every IoT device sending and receiving data over hundreds of miles.


Worthy of separate articles but worth mentioning here are the twin issues of regulatory compliance and data security. The former is intensifying to offer more of the latter. For instance, the European Data Protection Board is currently looking to the private and public sectors to work together to ensure effective surveillance of protected data. There is a lot of sensitive data out there, and anyone in the data centre game had better get wise to protecting it, or paying the price.


Some good news to finish this blog: The data centre sector has has a torrid last 12 months thanks to COVID-19 and its impact on new builds and upgrades to older builds. But the impact would seem not to be as severe as might have been feared, according to Baron Fung, Research Director of Dell’Oro Group. “While COVID-19 and the ensuing recession did weigh down on projected 2020 data centre capex growth to just 2%, the slowdown in spending was not as much as originally feared,” he says. “Some cloud service providers continued to expand their infrastructure to support increased internet usage and work-from-home dynamics.”


Whichever way you cut the cake, the data centre industry is changing, and this change will continue as long as humanity produces and sends data in increasing volumes.


To help with making sense of these and other issues, why not tune in to our 26 May Datacenter Technologies & Trends inter@ctive event. Led by Baron Fung, Research Director, Dell’Oro Group, it will also feature leading spokespeople from players including:


Dell Technologies

Digital Realty 

Arista Networks



Other names with a stake in the market include:







By Guy Matthews, Editor of NetReporter


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