The Evolution of the Data Center: Shifting from the “Model T”

The Evolution of the Data Center: Shifting from the “Model T”

Just as the Model T Ford and its cookie cutter design worked to meet the needs of consumers initially and then underwent radical changes, the traditional data center too must continually evolve. Today, data centers must be flexible and able to meet a range of individual needs.

Sureel Choksi is President and Chief Executive Officer at Vantage Data Centers. Follow Sureel on Twitter: @sureelc.

The evolution of the data center is under acceleration. The standard builds and designs of 10 or 15 years ago are rapidly giving way to more flexible models that can match an increasingly sophisticated customer base. This change is not unlike the trajectory of the Model T Ford and its cookie cutter design, which was revolutionary in its era, but eventually could not keepup with the pace of society or provide consumers the full spectrum of what they wanted in a vehicle. What does this mean for the data center industry? It means change is underway, and change propelled by smart innovation can be a very good thing.

New Era, New Definitions

If you know your way around data centers, you’ll have noticed something very interesting over the past few years. Remember when the wholesale market was defined as a megawatt and up? Now you see demand on the customer side for wholesale that starts around 500KW. I’ve even seen reports that define wholesale as 250KW and above. The once standard historical breakpoint of 1MW is no longer relevant.

These definitions are changing in part because customers have an increasingly sophisticated understanding of their needs and what they want from the market. Businesses are much savvier now when it comes to data infrastructure strategy, and they have to be in order to stay competitive. The Model T “one-size-fits-all” norm has become a hindrance to companies that want to stay apace with, and even be in front of, tech revolutions like Big Data and cloud. Data explosion, cloud services, and virtualization are some of the key drivers behind what has become a complex data center market.

Total Cost of Ownership – The Road to Efficient Models

In conjunction with Big Data, we’ve seen the proliferation of mobile devices, a steadily increasing adoption of social media platforms, machine-to-machine sensors that drive smart cities, and, of course, the Internet of Things (IoT). Every one of these technological advances generates data, and at rates that have no precedent in history.

The physical infrastructure of a data center has become more expensive in the sense that you need much more of it to house all the data that’s growing exponentially year by year. How does a company grapple with that expense?

Smart businesses today will address their data infrastructure needs as a course on efficiency and cost. Location plays a big role in this, as does power—access to it and the quantity needed to optimize the data center. Businesses today should be asking themselves, “How effective is my power usage?” “Am I using more redundancy than I need?” “Is my data center set up to grow as my business grows?”

What is a Flexible Data Center?

One company may want to run its legacy software on servers with double back up power and in close proximity to its corporate offices. At the same time, it prefers to run new applications in the cloud via a direct connection from the local data center, and also run a beta test on an aisle of local servers without any costly redundancy at all.

Another company may want to outfit its data center with new Open Compute Project racks and servers—hardware intended to drive efficiency through creating power-density and reduced hardware redundancy.

And yet another company may want to hold to a traditional model for its existing data infrastructure, but ensure that they have space for future growth to work with a range of new models.

Flexibility is just that—meeting customers' needs and helping them build and run data centers that fit what they do.

In the old-fashioned model of a data center it was difficult, if not impossible, to provide flexible, mixed-power use spaces to customers. You could have any “color” data center you desired as long as it was Model T black. Today, providing tailored solutions to each company isn’t just a bespoke, nice-to-have strategy, it’s imperative.

Data centers have to embrace the spirit of innovation with intelligence and agility. Otherwise, your data center business is likely to one day be preserved in a historical museum with freeze frame images of the past—like the Model T.

Industry Perspectives is a content channel at Data Center Knowledge highlighting thought leadership in the data center arena. See our guidelines and submission process for information on participating. View previously published Industry Perspectives in our Knowledge Library.

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