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What does 2021 have in store for the data centre industry?

What does 2021 have in store for the data centre industry?

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As we approach a new year, the data centre industry must prepare for what might be in store. Justin Jenkins, UK President and COO Europe, Vantage Data Centers, discusses some of the trends to be expected in 2021 as it will undoubtedly be another exciting one for the industry.

The year ahead promises to be another exciting and challenging one for data centre operators in the EMEA region as well as globally. Based on our bird’s eye view of the global data centre market, here is our take on the key trends and developments for next year and beyond. 

Hyperscalers

As the data centre industry continues to grow at an unprecedented rate, there will be an even greater need for hyperscale data centres in strategic locations around the world, including regions remotely sited from large metro areas. With this growth, the industry is changing with hyperscale customers requiring access to these large high-density, scalable facilities in ever shorter timeframes. According to Synergy Research, there were just over 500 such facilities a year ago, and at that time an additional 150 or so under construction. Just two years previously, the firm was tracking just 390 facilities.

Hyperscale facilities are born out of necessity: for supporting the massively scalable architectures of the global web, social media, streaming media, AI/Machine Learning, cloud gaming, and of course, hyperscale cloud providers. All of these will continue to be at the forefront of driving hyperscale data centre build-outs, either by the companies concerned doing it themselves or leasing space from specialist, global wholesale colocation providers; for seamlessly provisioning essential compute, memory, network and storage capacity when and wherever needed. In some cases, this will entail thousands, even millions, of interconnected servers being deployed around the world.

As the nervous system of the digital universe, hyperscale facilities must be highly connected, served by diverse high-speed low latency fibre networks capable of receiving and sending large volumes of data around the globe in a matter of milliseconds. By default, they will be points of presence (PoPs) for leading international carriers and provide access to hundreds of ISPs. Deployment of cloud gateways that bypass the public Internet and connect directly into public cloud subsea cable infrastructure, such as Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute, will also be a prerequisite.   

Furthermore, as they have emerged as the focal points for carriers, ISPs and Internet exchanges, hyperscale data centre owners, operators and customers will assume more control over the location and specification of global telecom networks.

Enterprise colocation

The growing costs and complexity of maintaining on-premise data centres – including hosting private cloud solutions – will continue to fuel the ongoing shift to colocation during 2021 and beyond. Increasingly, IT workloads will be shared between providers of off-premise colocation and cloud hosting services as enterprises address the cost and complexity implications and risks of running servers and private clouds in-house.

Significant growth will also come from areas such as High-Performance Computing (HPC). In addition – hastened by COVID-19 – organisations rethinking their ongoing use of office space will mean many more will want their IT stack to be independent of their offices, in a lights-out critical services environment that supports distributed ‘pandemic’ operations.

However, it is important to highlight that to satisfy these needs, data centre facilities will need to offer maximum scalability not only in terms of available space, but also vast reserves of highly concentrated power, specialist cooling and diverse high-speed connectivity.

But it’s worth remembering that colocation facilities are not all the same – far from it. So, careful evaluation will be essential on the part of prospective customers to ensure future-proofed delivery of their larger workload requirements.

Edge  

According to market analyst, Gartner, around 90% of enterprise data is currently processed within centralised data centres. Therefore, next year and in the foreseeable future we can expect the massive demand and growth in enterprise cloud computing – public, private and hybrid – to remain the major driver for growth in the data centre industry as a whole.

However, with the eventual arrival of 5G networks and autonomous vehicles, latency sensitive IoT operational workloads will eventually shift towards the network edge. This will lead to rising demand for much smaller ‘micro’ data centres in closer proximity. Even so, the vast volumes of data created at the edge and the growing need for powerful analytics will still rely on the services of centralised, hyperscale facilities – the two architectures are, and always will be, inextricably linked.    

Watch out for…

Power

Power to space ratio will be increasingly critical for achieving highly concentrated power to rack in ever smaller footprints. Growing hyperscale cloud and HPC deployments are already driving up rack densities to unprecedented levels. While 15-20kW racks have been the norm, we are now seeing densities rise to 40, 50, even 100kWs. This calls into care consideration a facility’s immediate, and forwards, power availability.   

Location

This is likely to continue impacting space and service pricing due to the cost of real estate and labour. With this, demand will continue for more out of town locations that are free from the risks and constraints of metro locations – and generally come with a lower real estate price tag.

While in Europe the traditional data centre capitals – Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam and Paris – will remain buoyant, there will be increasing opportunities for using hyperscale cloud hosting and colocation facilities based in regional ‘tier 2’ markets, such as Wales, Italy and Poland.

Data Sovereignty

GDPR compliance concerning the governance, control and security of company data is already well-known to both multinational enterprise organisations and hyperscalers operating across the EU. And for the UK in particular, its imminent ‘Brexit’ departure from the EU will serve to bring data sovereignty issues sharply into focus. The availability of fit-for-purpose data centres in individual countries will therefore become an even bigger priority for enterprises and hyperscalers to ensure compliance as well as address specific cultural requirements. 

Sustainability

Imagine a data centre that captures the heat generated by servers and uses it as a supplemental source of power. While this may not be economically feasible today, continuously trying to bring ideas like this to reality are essential to bring about positive change. Making data centres as environmentally friendly and energy efficient as possible must remain a major focus of the industry globally, helped by government incentives such as those in the EU surrounding the use of renewably sourced power.

Furthermore, with many conventional data centres consuming thousands of gallons of water a day, data centre providers will be striving to optimise Water Usage Effectiveness (WUE) – not just PUE. Vantage is committed to using air-cooled chillers featuring a closed-loop system which requires no ongoing water source. Also expect to see growing innovation around on-site renewable energy generation, for power not dedicated to cooling and operating servers.

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