5 Characteristics of Data Centres in a Post-Pandemic World
Thu 14 Oct 2021
The recent global pandemic changed a lot for the data centre industry. An immediate increase in demand for data centre services emerged as businesses made a rapid switch to a remote work environment. Connectivity and uninterrupted access became more important, as individuals were increasingly reliant on the digital world for access to healthcare, groceries, and critical services.
Data centres responded with agility, making rapid changes to accommodate the unprecedented requirements of the pandemic. But now, as we emerge from the global pandemic, more businesses are considering what this new environment will look like in the long term – what changes were temporary, and which ones are here to stay.
With this in mind, there are some emerging characteristics that will likely affect data centres well into the future.
Pandemic-related lockdowns and social distancing requirements accelerated interest in automating tasks where possible, including the use of robots. This makes data centre operations less reliant on human intervention, which provided a distinct advantage during the pandemic.
It is likely that this trend will continue beyond the immediate effects of the pandemic. Automation supports remote access and centralization of control, which improves efficiency and reduces waste and labor costs. It also frees up valuable human resources which can then be channeled toward innovation, and higher-level strategic objectives – while at the same time increasing employee engagement and satisfaction.
Areas of data centre operations where automation solutions are already readily available include:
- Routine procedures like patching, updating and reporting
- Data centre scheduling and monitoring
- Standards and policy enforcement
- Configuration management
Robotics in the data centre has also generated interest, although to a lesser extent than task automation. However, robots have been used to install and swap servers, monitor interconnections and manage physical site security.
DE-CIX implemented a group of patch robots, which can be used to plug fibre optic cables into an optical distribution frame. While this is a relatively simple task, using an on-site robot (such as Patchy McPatchface) saves the company the expense and resources required to bring a human to the location to perform this simple procedure.
Demand for digital services is rising on a global scale. This is supported by estimates that the global digital transformation market will sustain a colossal CAGR of 23.8% from 2021-2028.
In response, businesses must deliver reliable, sustainable, and scalable digital services by integrated connected ecosystems across cloud, SD-WAN, submarine, and dark fibre networks.
Shift to Hyperscale
The need for efficient operations has resulted in a shift to hyperscale data centres. Hyperscale data centres have the benefit of requiring less human intervention, reducing labour costs; maximizing cooling efficiency, which supports environmental and cost-control objectives; and easier low-latency workload balancing as servers are located physically closer to one another.
The number of hyperscale data centres worldwide reach 659 at the close of Q2 2021 – double the total from 2016. This represents a significant investment by industry leaders in massive data centre facilities.
Three major players (Amazon, Google, and Microsoft) account for more than half of hyper scale data centres. However, in terms of investment over the previous year alone, three Chinese companies emerged as leaders – ByteDance, Alibaba and Tencent.
Modular and prefabricated facilities
A recent study found that the market for modular data centres is expected to grow at a CAGR of 11.3% through 2026. This is driven, in part, by the impact of COVID-19’s increased demand for data centre services and capacity.
Modular data centres offer easy scalability and a reduced time-to-market, making the path to operational readiness faster and easier for data centre owners and operators. Other factors driving the adoption of modular data centres include the change to 5G networks, adoption of AI/ML, IoT, and big data.
When the pandemic hit, data centre businesses shifted rapidly to accommodate changes to the business environment and adapt to the evolving needs of their customers. Moving forward, some of these transformations are likely to take hold in the long term, changing the future of the data centre industry. Preparing now will help businesses adapt, and gain an advantage in a dynamic environment.