Uptime: Cloud Gives Many Enterprise Data Centers New Lease on Life

While they’re not building new data centers, many companies are upgrading existing ones

The volume of corporate software workloads being deployed in the cloud is quickly growing, but that does not mean on-premise enterprise data center footprint is shrinking at a similar rate. While they’re not investing in new data centers to expand capacity – cloud and colocation providers satisfy that need – many enterprises are spending money to upgrade their existing facilities, extending their useful life for many years to come.

That’s according to the latest survey of enterprise data center operators by The 451 Group’s Uptime Institute. Uptime surveys senior executives, IT, and facilities managers who operate data centers for traditional enterprise companies, such as banks, retailers, manufacturers, etc.

Nearly half of respondents on the facilities side of the house said they were doing infrastructure upgrades, refreshing power and cooling infrastructure in their on-premise data centers as part of their capacity planning activities. At the same time, many are planning to offset demand with cloud services and server consolidation, among other measures.

The percentage of respondents who said they were planning to build new data centers was also notably high: 30 percent.

Here’s how the responses break down (click chart to enlarge):

Source: Uptime Institute's 2017 Data Center Industry Survey

Matt Stansberry, Uptime’s senior director of content and publications, said these results indicates that while companies are using third-party services to absorb additional demand, they see value in holding on to on-prem data center investments they made in the early 2000s. “Increased cloud adoption is giving the enterprise data center a little room to breathe,” he said in an interview with Data Center Knowledge.

While the days when a typical big-company exec would agree to a $50 million project to build a new data center to support growth are gone (“We don’t see the new builds that you might have seen a few years ago.”), that exec appear less reluctant to invest a smaller sum in improving existing facilities to get more out of them, Stansberry explained.

Cloud, colocation services, and processor improvements (which enable companies to do more with fewer servers) take the pressure off data center teams to expand capacity by building new sites, freeing up time and budget to upgrade and “retrench” in their facilities, he said.

See also: Cloud Giants Disagree on the Future of Corporate Data Centers

As the above percentages show, this trend does not apply across the board. There have been many examples of enterprises moving every workload they can to the cloud.

The most recent one is The New York Times, which is working to move all workloads out of three colocation data centers into Google’s and Amazon’s clouds, reluctantly retaining an on-premise data center at its headquarters just to support several legacy systems that are impossible to migrate to the cloud.

Another example is Juniper Networks, which recently went from 18 company-operated data centers supporting corporate backend workloads to one. Like The Times, the network technology vendor moved everything it could to the cloud, leaving only a single colocation site hosting legacy applications it could not move. (Juniper also retained on-prem data centers used by its engineers for testing and simulation, but that's an entirely different purpose.)

Responses to Uptime’s survey indicate that 60 percent of enterprise IT server footprints are flat or shrinking due to better processor performance, growing rates of server virtualization, and rapid cloud adoption:

Source: Uptime Institute's 2017 Data Center Industry Survey

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