State of the Data Center Industry, 2018 – Where We are and What to Expect

AFCOM study looks at industry growth and trends in data center skills and technology

Bill Kleyman

March 9, 2018

6 Min Read
Data Center World
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We’re all technologists, or at the very least, users of technology. In the data center space, we are constantly leveraging new systems, methods of communication, and advanced technologies designed to make life easier.

Our world is increasingly becoming connected and digital. The latest Cisco Visual Networking Index indicates some interesting trends going into 2021:

  • Annual global IP traffic will reach 3.3 zettabytes by 2021. In 2016, global IP traffic was 1.2 ZB per year or 96 exabytes (one billion gigabytes) per month.

  • Global IP traffic will increase nearly threefold over the next five years, and will have increased 127-fold from 2005 to 2021.

At the heart of all of this is the data center. In 2018 and beyond, new solutions and concepts around data center architecture will force business leaders and IT professionals to think a little differently when it comes to helping the data center run more optimally and create competitive advantages. This notion became the nexus behind the AFCOM State of the Data Center research initiative.

Two years ago, AFCOM embarked on a data center study where we asked the leaders in our space for feedback on their own infrastructure and what they expect to see in the future. The 2015-2016 study showed what you were currently working on, your priorities, and where future designs would impact the modern data center.

Related:Lenovo’s Data Center Solutions Exec Says IT Should Help Business Drive Innovation

In the 2016 report, we reviewed:

  • Growth and expansion in the data center industry

  • Power, cooling, services, and redundancy requirements

  • Cloud, storage, virtualization, and security

  • New types of staffing and personnel dynamics

  • Evolving CapEx and OpEx models

Our survey dove deep into the challenges and growth dynamics around the data center. Most of all, we began to see the real boom in data demand, changes in how data centers were being managed, and what administrators (and senior executives) were doing to overcome new challenges.

Building from our successful study in 2015, we received hundreds of responses from data center leaders and organizations across the world for this year’s State of the Data Center survey. Reviewed under the watchful eye of our market research team, the study methodology conforms to all accepted market research methods, practices, and procedures.

In the background, a highly talented team of data center and IT professionals helped push the report along through design, development, and delivery. The respondents included professionals who:

  • Operate an in-house data center

  • Organizations that use colocation or managed services facilities

  • Managed services and colocation providers

  • Cloud service providers

  • Vendors supplying infrastructure (UPS, generators, cabling), services, and IT technology to data centers

Related:Hear from Google’s Joe Kava and Heather Dooley at Data Center World

When the results came in, our findings were certainly fascinating. We learned that as the data center shifts to support more digital strategies, the business will rely on the capabilities of your IT ecosystem to support new initiatives.

State of the Data Center Findings – Brief Overview

Here’s an overview of some key findings. Members can download the full State of the Data Center report on the AFCOM site. Or, be sure to join us next week in San Antonio, where we’ll be presenting the findings during a keynote at the Data Center World Global conference.

Growth in the Data Center Industry

When we asked respondents about data center growth, we found that ownership, renovations, and building were on the upswing.

  • 58% of respondents currently own between two and nine data center facilities

  • 19% said they own 10 or more data centers.

  • The average number of data centers each organization manages sits around 8.1 today.

  • Responders indicated that on average 5.3 data centers will be renovated per organization. That number increases to 7.8 data centers over the course of 12 months.

Three-Year Forecast

  • The average number of data centers managed will increase to 10.2 per organization over the next three years.

  • Over three years, responders said that on average, 12.8 data centers per organization will be renovated.

Another interesting set of statistics indicated that new data center construction will grow more than five times over the next three years.

  • The average number of data centers to be built sits at around 2.2 per organization.

  • That number increases to 4.5 over the course of 12 months.

  • Looking three years out, the average number of data centers to be built is 10.3 per organization.

Data Center Footprint: Stable and Growing

Another very interesting trend that surfaced was the size and footprint of data centers. The emergence of distributed IT and edge computing saw an increase in the number of data centers being used. Furthermore, these data centers are being deployed with advanced infrastructure (convergence for example), resulting in varying footprints, depending on the use case. Overall, the size of infrastructure is holding steady. Here’s what we found in this latest study:

  • 48% reported that their current data centers are between 5,000 and 50,000 sq. ft.

  • About 50% said their data centers will be between 5,000 and 50,000 sq. ft. over the next 12 months

  • Another 16% stated that their data centers are between 100,000 and 500,000 sq. ft.

  • Looking three years out, 26% answered that their data centers will be between 100,000 and 500,000 sq. ft.

Growing Requirements Around Cooling, Power, Redundancy, Management, and Power Sources 

To support increased levels of density, organizations are looking into new types of power sources for help. For example, nearly 42% of respondents indicated that they’ve either already deployed some type of renewable energy source or are planning to do so over the course of 12 months. Of those, 60% said that these new energy sources will help their organization achieve new green initiatives and help lower ROI and/or TCO of the data center.

As far as the types of renewable energy sources being used, we found the following adoption trends where respondents are either currently using the source, or are planning to do so over the next 12-36 months:

  • Solar: 83%

  • Hydro: 63%

  • Wind: 63%

  • Geothermal: 48%

Uptime and Redundancy Continue to Be Critical Considerations

When it comes to keeping levels of redundancy, respondents indicated they take uptime very seriously. About 80% of respondents indicated that they’re at least at N+1 electrical redundancy levels. Over the course of the next 12-36 months, about 30% will incorporate N+2 levels of redundancy.

We see similar levels when it comes to cooling redundancy. Seventy-eight percent indicated that they have at least N+1 redundancy for cooling. Over the next 12-36 months, 27% will be leveraging at least N+2 levels of redundancy.

Final Thoughts and Looking Ahead

The data center continues to be an absolutely critical part of the business. Beyond anything else, we’re going to see new kinds of demands and business requirements which will impact the way we leverage technology and the entire data center model. Solutions around efficiency, convergence, and the edge will all help shape the design and deployment of the modern data center.

Moving forward, it’ll be critical to understand the role of the data center and where you fit in. Our report not only looks at data center trends, but also trends around people who support IT, the training they require, and what data center managers need when it comes to new concepts like cloud. Just like the data center, the IT professional must evolve as well.

Log in to your AFCOM account for access to the full report and data. Not an AFCOM member? Sign up today for membership benefits including local chapter events and exclusive content like the annual State of the Industry Report, whitepapers, and more!

About the Author(s)

Bill Kleyman

Bill Kleyman has more than 15 years of experience in enterprise technology. He also enjoys writing, blogging, and educating colleagues about tech. His published and referenced work can be found on Data Center Knowledge, AFCOM, ITPro Today, InformationWeek, NetworkComputing, TechTarget, DarkReading, Forbes, CBS Interactive, Slashdot, and more.

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