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Vertiv experts foresee utility-like criticality for data centres in 2021

Vertiv experts foresee utility-like criticality for data centres in 2021

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As the world moved online seemingly overnight in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the criticality of data centres and the unrelenting reliance on them across all walks of life became an enduring storyline of the crisis. This reality will manifest in new ways in 2021 as the data centre and the information ecosystem orbiting it emerge from the pandemic with a fourth utility criticality, complete with all the expectations and responsibilities that implies.

This is among the emerging 2021 data centre trends identified by experts from Vertiv, a global provider of critical digital infrastructure and continuity solutions.

Data centres have long been held to high availability standards, but the shift toward utility-like status will be noticeable in two ways. First, those high expectations for network availability will extend deep into rural and remote areas, bringing critical applications to more of the population. This will increase pressure on data centres to maintain connectivity even at the outer edges of their networks. Second, any distinction between availability and connectivity will be erased, as the ability to ensure and protect connections across increasingly distributed hybrid networks becomes as much of a requirement as any traditional measure of data centre uptime.

“Data centres have been moving toward public utility-type status for some time, but the pandemic has crystalised the need to establish the kinds of official guardrails that have been commonplace across other utilities,” said Gary Niederpruem, Chief Strategy and Development Officer, Vertiv. “This isn’t just about working from home, although that is part of it. More importantly, it is about supporting the digital economy in its most mission-critical forms, which include increased reliance on telemedicine and health, enhanced e-commerce, global telecommunications and mass media.”

The pandemic effectively established a new baseline for digital infrastructure as the industry adjusts to and eventually moves beyond the global shutdown. Against this backdrop, Vertiv’s experts identified several other emerging trends to watch in 2021.

COVID-19 will have a lasting effect on the workforce and the IT ecosystem supporting the new work-from-home (WFH) model. Vertiv experts expect the pandemic-motivated investment in IT infrastructure to continue and expand, enabling more secure, reliable and efficient remote work capabilities.

Any cautious steps taken early in the crisis will be accelerated as the pandemic pushes into 2021 and organisations accept these changes not as a temporary detour, but rather a permanent adjustment to the way we work and do business. Over time, what is done in-person versus remotely will change and the change will be driven by customers looking to minimise their on-site presence. That places a premium on connectivity, remote monitoring, data analytics and even Artificial Intelligence to make decisions.

“Recovery requires a change in mindset for most organisations,” said John-David Lovelock, Research Vice President, Gartner. “There is no bouncing back. There needs to be a reset focused on moving forward.”

Today’s Edge is more critical and more complex, functionally an extension of the data centre rather than the glorified IT closet of the past. Cost and complexity have prevented implementation of data centre best practices in these spaces, but that is changing. “Wherever there is a high density of data processing, there will be a demand for Edge Computing. That demand and scale, will necessitate more resilient and intelligent edge infrastructure,” said Giordano Albertazzi, President, Vertiv Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). “We are seeing expansion of the Edge in many countries and that will eventually extend to emerging markets. Edge deployments are also closely aligned to other key trends such as 5G and environmental sustainability and the integration of edge sites with energy grids can support the transition towards renewables.”

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