Gartner’s 2022 IT Symposium is, as you can imagine, full of predictions. Some of which this publication believes will be a reality and others that have no application for the data center industry overall.
But, one session had us thinking about what it truly means to face uncertainty. That’s because the industry faces unprecedented upheavals and continues to do so at an accelerated rate. Data center professionals are facing several challenges all at once, including:
- The emergence of data center fires (there’s been a report of a third one just yesterday in South Korea)
- Communities protesting data centers due to noise from cooling systems and fighting for basic resources of water and electricity
- The very real threat of a monumental loss due to experienced talent retiring and taking their hard-won knowledge with them
- A lack of innovation and agility that may cause a loss of market share.
Juggling these and other challenges isn’t exclusive to just your organization. Gartner had a few insights for CIOs that could apply to your organization as well. Let’s take a look:
Gartner’s Top Predictions - for Data Centers
The growth of virtual tech such as the metaverse to spur collaboration, productivity and a reimagination of the workplace.
Through 2027, fully virtual workspaces will account for 30% of the investment growth by enterprises in metaverse technologies and will “reimagine” the office experience.
Positioned initially as a workplace prediction, Darryl Plummer, distinguished VP analyst and Gartner Fellow, gave a use case that could ignite innovation and lower costs for data centers. He gave the example of an engineer working with an oil and gas company to solve the problem of a pipeline leak. In the metaverse, they would create a virtual twin of the leak, have the execs don virtual headsets and ‘swim’ to the leak in the virtual underwater world. The engineer would show the execs the problem, show the cuff that would provide the solution, and then talk through contingencies and of course, costs.
The way Plummer explained this gives true credence to digital twin technology for data centers and may inspire some to accelerate adoption. We covered this during Nvidia’s recent conference and provided use cases for data center operations. While digital twin and metaverse tech can improve workplaces, the application for operations in the data center appears to be more applicable at this time.
AI Technology Could Cancel Itself Out
The gains earned from AI, efficiency, faster decision making, cost savings, reductions in human error and powerful processing power, could all be canceled out by the enormous amount of energy required to train, store, and deploy AI tech.
By 2025, without sustainable artificial intelligence (AI) practices, AI will consume more energy than the human workforce, significantly offsetting carbon zero gains.
The industry already feels the pain of this very scenario. The growth of AI enhances that pain. China addresses this through its East data, West computing program. But authoritarian economies are able to make these kinds of mandates without disrupting daily life. Whereas, open economies may have a more difficult time bifurcating its geography, segmenting a vast geographic area and dedicating it to the sole purpose of processing AI data sets.
Plummer gave the example of a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 5% thanks to AI technology being canceled out by the processing power needed to arrive at such a milestone. For data centers, exploring alternative forms of energy and self-powering data centers appears to be the way hyperscalers are addressing the issue. Time will tell as to whether this has applications for the processing needs of AI.
Fewer Cloud Vendor Solutions Lead to Hyper Focus on Open Source
Quite relevant to the data center world is Gartner’s prediction that the cloud is consolidating and will squeeze out options for consumers of cloud. For larger colos, this may not be an issue. For enterprises looking to take full advantage of multi-cloud, this may pose an interesting challenge – or at the very least a consideration when selecting vendors. How long will this one be around? How long will we actually need to leverage this vendor? While this may already be a consideration for some, it will move up the list when evaluating multi-cloud options.
Through 2025, powerhouse cloud ecosystems will consolidate the vendor landscape by 30% leaving customers with fewer choices and less control of their software destiny.
To address the issue, Plummer identified something we’re familiar with in the data center world: open source. He sees greater adoption of open source on the way and describes laying open source on top of any cloud resource to harden an enterprise’s resiliency against volatility that will accelerate in this sector.
Losing Data Center Talent Creates Measurable Losses
As the data center industry addresses its talent shortage, bordering on crisis, other parts of the tech industry feel the pain as well. Gartner predicts 40% of organizations will face a material business loss due to labor shortage.
The solution Plummer presents hinges on transparency. Firms that document and share pay inequity have a better opportunity to retain talent in their organizations. This is especially true for reducing attrition rates among women in the workplace.
By 2025, organizations that remediate documented gender pay gaps will decrease women's attrition by 30%, reducing pressure on talent shortages.
Data Center Knowledge covers labor shortages extensively in our 2022 Salary Survey. Bill Kleyman, Switch’s executive vice president of digital solutions, laid out several options in our coverage. One of which includes this very issue – shortening the pay gap among data center technicians.
Employees are usually discouraged from discussing pay rates with each other, with some organizations including clauses in their employee contracts expressly forbidding it. Increasing transparency around pay scales helps organizations minimize unconscious bias and make better salary decisions that lessen pay gaps.
This requires a shift in culture, more humility, and more courage in management.
These realistic predictions aren’t a surprise to us in the data center industry. But Gartner has put dates and numbers to what we already know are issues in this space. Savvy data center professionals can use these data points to spur action and incremental change within their organizations.