To say that a lot of money is riding on the evolution of the data center is probably the understatement of the year.
Without doubt, the old ways of doing business are coming to an end. Routine hardware and software purchases through long-standing channel relationships are falling prey to increasingly tight budgets and the need to streamline IT infrastructure through dense, modular architectures and hefty doses of cloud and colocation services.
At the moment, this is producing a surge in data center construction as providers of all stripes seek to build infrastructure to meet expected demand. In the long term, however, it is questionable how well a consolidated, data utility industry will be able to support the vibrant manufacturing and distribution industries that we have today.
IDC, for one, sees the market for new data centers peaking at 8.6 million in 2017, followed by a long, steady decline. The fall-off will be felt most dramatically within internal data center infrastructure as server rooms and data closets become less cost-effective in supporting overall data operations and productivity. Whatever on-site data infrastructure remains will typically be large, consolidated facilities that act as the primary engagement point between employees, partners and customers and are therefore adept at handling very large volumes of data. An interesting codicil to the decline in the number of data centers and the growth of larger facilities, however, is the overall increase in data center space, which is expected to grow from 1.58 billion square feet in 2013 to 1.94 billion square feet in 2018.
This is in line with earlier research from Ireland’s Research and Markets that put the dollar amount of data center spending at $22.73 billion by 2019, up from $14.59 billion this year. The firm found that the IT industry represents the largest vertical when it comes to data center spending (natch), “followed by Banking, Financial Services and Industry (BFSI).” The Asia-Pacific region also represents a strong growth area, although much of the activity will be in the cloud and colocation spheres, which offer advanced data services at dramatically lower upfront costs compared to on-site infrastructure.
And according to Infiniti Research, colocation will be the primary driver of a 22 percent increase in data center construction over the next four years. This is distinct from cloud services like SaaS and IaaS, which Infiniti says are still pretty low on the adoption scale. Colocation, on the other hand, offers a ready solution for enterprises to piece together their preferred solutions without have to incur the cost of massive hardware upgrades. This trend will likely accelerate as infrastructure design and management become more complex due both to the increasingly dynamic nature of the data environment and more stringent standards for things like energy efficiency and availability. Infiniti says colocation will become increasingly attractive due to modular, container-based infrastructure, advanced virtual platforms and other developments that boost economies of scale on the hardware level.
Clearly, though, the cloud will convert data infrastructure from a collection of disparate parts to an integrated, federated data ecosystem, says MTM Technologies’ Bill Kleyman. Data environments are increasingly turning away from the processing and capacity models of the past and more toward the concept of data delivery – getting the right data to the right user in a timely manner. With open source cloud platforms like OpenStack and CloudStack providing integrated API environments that layer on top of existing hardware, enterprises are able to build unified cloud architectures completely in software, increasing performance and lowering costs. This is why IP cloud traffic is on par to jump from 98 exabytes per month in 2012 to more than 440 exabytes per month in 2017.
Change, of course, is constant in the technology industry, but the changes taking place in the data center these days will have ramifications beyond the mere enterprise and will likely extend to the world economy itself. It is too early to say whether the long-term impact of infrastructure consolidation and the cloud will lead to more or less hardware, software and services being sold, but it seems evident that the sheer number of disparate enterprise data centers will shrink, replaced by large, regional cloud and colocation facilities.
And that means the number of infrastructure platform purchases will be smaller, but individual deployments will be much larger in scale.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata, Carpathia and NetMagic.