Be Aware of These 5 Data Center Trends in 2018

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.

Bill Kleyman

January 17, 2018

9 Min Read
Network cables
Morris MacMatzen/Getty Images

Welcome to 2018! We’ve already been gearing up to tackle new challenges, more connected users, and an ever-evolving digital world. Many of the broader trends are having an impact on the modern data center. A few key projects that started over the course of 2017 will help shape the data center over the next few years.

In 2018, new solutions and concepts around data center architecture will force business leaders and IT professionals to think differently when it comes to helping the data center run more optimally and create competitive advantages.

Today, we look at those considerations, technologies, and new solutions. Remember, 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. As a note, the following technologies are projects that are currently dominating the list. These solutions aim to have the greatest impact without completely disrupting functionality.

With that, here’s the list of data center trends that everyone should be aware of for 2018:

1. 2018 is the year of the Edge Data Center. I’m not saying the cloud bubble has burst. And, it’s important to note that the edge is not here to replace the cloud. In the many edge projects we’re working on, edge solutions are designed to complement data center and cloud services. Edge computing serves as the decentralized extension of the campus networks, cellular networks, data center networks, or the cloud. “Organizations that have embarked on a digital business journey have realized that a more decentralized approach is required to address digital business infrastructure requirements,” says Santhosh Rao, principal research analyst at Gartner. “As the volume and velocity of data increases, so too does the inefficiency of streaming all this information to a cloud or data center for processing.” Effectively, organizations are working hard to decentralize compute power and place it closer to the point where data is generated. That is, the edge.

Related:The Cloud and Data Center Industry in 2017 -- Summing Up the Year

We’re also seeing a lot of use-cases for edge. This involves everything from finance to healthcare. The decentralization of cloud and data center resources has given rise to micro-data centers, branch locations, and smaller hubs to process data. Remember, these aren’t just benign small remote data centers. They’re key parts of your business and need to be planned around. The future is a lot more distributed. As you design your own edge ecosystem, keep an eye on efficiency, resiliency, and how the architecture can positively impact the business. I absolutely believe that edge, WAN, and even SD-WAN solutions will impact how data centers are being deployed in the digital world. “Currently, around 10% of enterprise-generated data is created and processed outside a traditional centralized data center or cloud,” says Rao. “By 2022, Gartner predicts this figure will reach 50%.”

2. All-flash solutions will eliminate a number of design challenges. We are seeing rows and rows of spinning disk being removed to make way for far more efficient all-flash solutions. Gartner recently predicted that by 2021, 50 percent of data centers will use SSAs for high-performance computing and big data workloads -- up from less than 10 percent today. "Advancements in SSD technology and lower price points are driving broader SSD adoption and are making SSDs a ubiquitous storage technology," said Jeff Janukowicz, a research VP at IDC. "SSD adoption in the client PC and in the enterprise data center market continues to increase, which will drive SSD unit shipments to grow."

We need to be very clear: all-flash solutions can have a very positive impact on data center design. We’re seeing this now, as we help many organizations design data center solutions to support evolving business requirements. In a recent report from Forrester (commissioned by Pure Storage), analysts examined the economic impact of removing legacy spinning disk and replacing them with all-flash solutions. Interviewed customers reported significant power and cooling savings when they replaced legacy disk storage with all-flash technologies. Per the report, power and cooling savings totaled $74,231 over three years, assuming cost per kWh for power of $0.14 and cost per kWh for cooling of $0.10.

This level of efficiency has allowed organizations to reduce many racks of spinning disk into just a few units within a rack. All-flash solutions should be in your design considerations if they’re not already.

3. It’s all about converged technologies in 2018 and beyond. This type of architecture aims to remove siloes of resources, challenges around administration, and issues with scale. Like all-flash solutions, converged and hyper-converged infrastructure (CI and HCI) is designed to drastically simplify data center design and allow the business to be a lot more agile. "The converged systems market is benefiting from an expansion into new environments and a new set of customers," said Eric Sheppard, a research director at IDC. "This expansion is driven by products that are offering new levels of automation, tighter integration between technologies, and, in many cases, software-defined solutions based on scale-out architectures."

The other big aspects are integration with next-generation services like containers and the ability to expand into the cloud. Furthermore, deep integration with the virtualization layer allows companies to deploy key virtual apps, desktops, and resources. Here’s another factor: HCI and CI designs integrate the very best of all-flash and even edge services. They’re fast to deploy, use-case specific, and are created to make data center operation easier and faster to deliver. These types of solutions need to become considerations if you’re undertaking data center optimization, deploying edge services, or trying to simplify the way your data center is being managed.

4. Prepare your data center for hybrid. On the theme of decentralization, hybrid cloud continues to be a dominant factor when it comes to data center design and integration with cloud. Most of the organizations that I work with have active hybrid cloud initiatives or deployments. They’re not planning on going full public, and they’re not interested in reintroducing cloud elements on premises. Hybrid has been a great model for many organizations across all sizes and verticals. Moving forward, the adoption will only continue to grow. Gartner recently pointed out that more than $1 trillion in IT spending will be directly or indirectly affected by the shift to cloud during the next five years. The market for cloud services continues to grow, say analysts, making cloud computing one of the most disruptive forces in IT spending today. Gartner predicts that by 2020, 90 percent of organizations will adopt hybrid infrastructure management capabilities. That said, it’ll be important to understand where these types of solution can impact your business and where you should be deploying hybrid.

5. More investment made in data center efficiency: AFM, DCIM, Liquid Cooling, Microgrids. As you read through the previous four trends, you probably noticed that they’ll each require you to look at the data center a bit differently. This might mean that you’re deploying an edge data center, removing legacy components and replacing them with all-flash or converged systems, or leveraging a hybrid cloud model. All this will impact how your data center is designed and operated. Organizations are looking at new ways to optimize their data centers and the critical resources they house. Airflow management and computational fluid dynamics have helped data center operators create more efficiency and better understand how to design their data centers. Some will work with modular containment around key systems to help optimize airflow. Others might look at new airflow management systems that impact HPC or new converged systems.

Similarly, DCIM software and other data center management tools have been very important. We’re seeing integration with things like machine learning, cloud, virtual systems, and much more. Make sure to leverage your management platform to improve overall data center functionality.

Working with new cooling and power considerations has also been a growing trend. Gartner estimates that ongoing power costs are increasing at least 10 percent per year due to cost per kilowatt-hour (kWh) increases in underlying demand, especially for high-power density servers. Adoption of liquid-based cooling is increasing, as it is considered more efficient than air-based cooling. The global data center cooling market using liquid-based cooling techniques is expected to grow at a remarkable rate through 2020, posting a CAGR of almost 16 percent during the forecast period. Already, we’re seeing several server and data center systems being pre-built with liquid cooling solutions. This is definitely something to keep an eye on and adopt as necessary.

Finally, microgrids. GTM Research issued a report forecasting that $12.5 billion will be invested in microgrids over the next six years in the US. Whether basic or advanced, microgrids are distinguished by their ability to provide both “power and energy services when in grid-connected or island mode and be able to island for at least 24 hours,” said GTM in announcing the report. A recent blog pointed out that microgrid developers and technology providers have been honing business models, aiming largely at sparing customers from paying upfront capital costs for microgrid installation and handling ongoing operation and maintenance. Growing use cases for emergency situations, remote locations, and power delivery are all pushing the microgrid market forward. In fact, the GTM report forecasts that the annual microgrid market opportunity will double over the next five years, from $1.4 billion in 2017 to $2.8 billion in 2022.

Reliance on the Data Center Grows

One of the key overarching trends we’ve seen has been continued reliance on the data center. In fact, this reliance continues to grow, although more workloads are shifting from on-premises facilities to multi-tenant sites. Consider this research from Jones Lang LaSalle, which indicated that mergers and acquisitions in the data center provider sector surged in 2016, a trend that continued through 2017. The report shows that the data center provider industry continues to thrive, which is expected to continue regardless of the pace of macroeconomic growth. Colocation absorption rates have reached record highs, with 357.85MW in the top US markets and 46.3MW in the top Canadian markets, highlighting the momentum.

In addition to growth in the hyper-scale cloud provider sector, reasons for the continued health in the data center market include the edge and hybrid cloud trends we mentioned above. Organizations increasingly understand that centralizing everything within a full public cloud model just doesn’t make sense. As 2018 unfolds, be sure to keep an eye on these trends and know where they can help you shape your business.

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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