Independent analyst Gartner predicts that global spend on data centre infrastructure will grow next year by 6% as economies bounce back from restrictions consequent on the coronavirus pandemic. Spending on data centres dipped 10% this year as construction projects were put on ice. As has been well documented, actual usage of data centres has soared as enterprises everywhere hasten to put applications in the cloud to facilitate remote working. It’s a no brainer that once restrictions on new data centre builds start to ease, we’ll see a flurry of new infrastructure.
Let’s pause to reflect what shape data centres will take, and what uses all that new capacity will be put to. We have seen rapid evolution in how data centres function in the last few years. A facility that regarded itself as ‘state of the art’ five or six years ago might well be on a fast track to the scrap heap, unless it has been extensively rethought. Here’s three thoughts:
- Anyone building new centres over the next year or two will be focussed on using artificial intelligence in various ways. AI is quite simply the future of the data centre. It will be built into the very fabric of the data centre, used to run all that massive compute power as well as ensure the smooth running of every moving part. AI will be as much about reducing human error as it will be about running power systems and cooling systems and ensuring security. AI will be central to the networks that link all the elements of a modern data centre and connect it to the wider world. Manual configuration is history, automation is everything. No worthwhile data centre currently at the planning stage can afford to rely on manual provisioning methods or unaided human intelligence to adjust and monitor. AI and ML will also drive all the analytics that data centres need to perform.
- The trend towards edge computing in the last year or two, has been plain for all to see. Everybody wants more compute resources to be switched to the network edge, which thanks to 5G and other unwired developments is now a hugely fluid thing. For data centre operators, it is vital that they adapt to this trend. It’s something they should actively embrace, given the heavier and heavier loads that their centrally managed resources are having to handle. But whose job is it to build, manage and maintain all this edge infrastructure? Expect that to be on next year’s agenda.
- What should be the longer-term aspiration of those in the business of managing data? Where is that industry ultimately heading? In all probability everything is moving in the direction of serverless computing and the increased use of micro-services. The kind of monolithic approach where everything operated under one umbrella is looking outdated. The future is smaller and more agile than that, based around containers and a more modular style of computing. The future, of course, is all about the cloud and everything will have to run on cloud-native principles. Data centres are naturally central to this. They are the new unit of compute, not the PC or the on-prem server.
The following event will contain much discussion on these and other themes:
These links are useful for anybody wanting to do further research into data centre trends:
By Guy Matthews, Editor of NetReporter