If you got in a time machine, traveled back a decade, and popped in on the multi-tenant data center industry—an obvious destination for any internet infrastructure enthusiast—you would find a sector far different from its current incarnation. Rarely would facilities be found outside of top tier metropolitan areas. The data centers would have been filled with enterprises representing bread and butter verticals—financial services, manufacturing, healthcare. They would be deploying back office CRM and ERP applications in racks that draw as much as 4kW, on a good day.
Fast forward to today, and a considerable number of colocation facilities have made their way into secondary and tertiary cities. The largest consumers of capacity are cloud service providers that deploy hardware in dense configurations upwards of 30kW per rack. Most notably, today’s multi-tenant environments often house bustling interconnection ecosystems, with third parties linking their hardware together, maximizing the potential of business synergy.
If history tells us anything, it is simply naïve to think the way we characterize the industry today would hold true another decade from now. In fact, we believe 2019 alone will bring with it some significant changes. Here are some trends that will rapidly alter the face of the data center industry, with the potential driver being the escalation of capacity consumption throughout next year.
Every few years, a new application overruns multi-tenant data centers, testing the limits of Tier III data centers in their current iterations. Around 2010, it was cloud computing that disrupted the industry, doubling or tripling power density requirements. This year, we expect Artificial Intelligence (AI) to be that transformational entrant. At eStruxture, we are seeing substantial demand for capacity to support AI-powered applications that are being implemented by enterprises across a variety of verticals. AI labs and other associations are also flocking to multi-tenant data centers to deploy AI platforms with robust power and connectivity requirements, much richer than what we have previously seen. Interestingly, these customers often do not require N+1 resiliency across the board – as most customers do today – and would rather not pay for it.
Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) is not just expanding the boundaries of our imaginations, but also how we transform our data centers. Every superhero or monster-ridden blockbuster requires megawatts of high-performance computing to render the mayhem we watch while munching on popcorn. These customers, though, pose a challenge to data center service providers, as they only need this capacity for the duration of a film’s post-production cycle. That is usually less than a year, as opposed to the traditional three-year (or more) colocation contract. Having a data center in Vancouver (now known as “Hollywood North”, since tax incentives are magnetizing the VFX industry), we are seeing this sector compelling operators to weave more flexibility into their contracting mechanisms.
Pushing to the Edge (but not too far)
In 2019, we’re not likely to see the spread of containerized micro-modular data centers proliferated all along the world’s fiber routes. But, we will see the edge continue to expand its boundaries. The majority of data center buildouts are still concentrated in core cities, and it is justifiable to consider these urban centers, with as many as 3 million people, “the edge”. With companies gearing up for driverless car infrastructure that needs to be closer to end users, and hyperscale cloud providers looking to improve QoS by deploying availability zones outside of Tier 1 markets, we predict data centers in secondary regions will see lots of activity.
“Smart city” is a buzzword that’s been circling the industry over the past couple of years, but few projects have actually made their way to the data center. We believe the infrastructural foundation, which will allow municipalities to better serve their citizens through connected-technology, will finally start being deployed this year. The Internet of Things (IoT) is central to bring the smart city to fruition, and prior to disseminating devices into the field, centralized compute, storage and network repositories must be established to synthesize the information being gathered. It is safe to say that data center providers will become very familiar with public sector RFPs in 2019.
The trends we expect to see require data center service providers to be more flexible on all fronts. They must be ready to deliver incredibly dense configurations, within timelines that align with these new applications lifecycles. They also must be ready to deliver critical infrastructure with varying levels of resiliency, and in locations that are closer to the end users benefiting from the technology being deployed.
The industry was able to adapt to the cloud, and while many of the above come with challenges, eStruxture is prepared to deliver.
Cheers to an innovative and successful 2019 together; we look forward to what lies ahead!