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How fast is the data centre industry changing?

Thu 30 May 2019 | Jos Baart

Flexenclosure’s Jos Baart shares his predictions on some of the coming challenges and opportunities that will drive a major reshaping of the data centre industry – and the best way to meet the growing demand for new data centre capacity

What are some of the key trends and challenges in the current global data centre market?

From a trend perspective, there is consensus that data centre capacity will continue to grow steadily on a global scale. This has happened for several years already and is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. However, while much of the growth to date has been characterised by the build-out of hyperscale cloud and colocation facilities, the years ahead will see an increasing importance of edge and micro edge locations.

This is being driven by the growth of IoT, gaming, mobile 5G, content distribution, cloud services, autonomous vehicles and myriad other applications that require the computing capacity to move much closer to where the data is both created and consumed. There are several reasons for this: network latency needs to be extremely short; network bandwidth can be very expensive and network complexity could become a limiting factor. But all three can be overcome by increasing computing power at the edge.

This accelerating growth in the data centre market will undoubtedly result in some significant challenges which will need to be handled carefully in order to secure a reliable and fully-functioning global IT infrastructure. There will be challenges with human resources, finding enough qualified people to design, build, operate and maintain all the required new data centre facilities.

There will be technical challenges, requiring significant integration efforts between the buildings themselves and the systems to be installed within. There will be increasingly tough “green” challenges – especially around energy efficiency – which will trigger the emergence of new technologies and new ideas. And there will be volume challenges, with the deployment of large numbers of edge and micro edge data centres requiring a high level of standardisation, coordination and new capabilities in remote management.

What do you think the future landscape of the cloud, edge and 5G technologies will look like?

In many respects, the landscape will be much as it is today – a mesh of data centres of all sizes: core hyperscale, regional large scale, local edge and micro edge. Some data centre owners will focus on just one of those segments, while others will operate a network of data centres covering several or all of these groups.

Where I see significant change coming though, is in the micro edge arena. Business cases for the micro edge approach are currently being tested and it remains to be seen how this market segment will ultimately shape up. But it is clear that the level of investment that will go into the edge and micro edge segments will be significant.

And we will see very tight integration between communication services and IT applications in the micro edge area, with mobile 5G playing a major role.

What regions do you see as prime for IT infrastructure asset expansion?

“The only way to roll out the new data centre capacity that the world is going to need will be through a combination of customisation, standardisation and prefabrication”

I see no single region overshadowing the rest in terms of growth in required data centre capacity, although there will of course be regional differences. The hyperscale build-out that we have typically seen in the world’s developed economies will undoubtedly continue.

Meanwhile, emerging economies will require smaller facilities, but there will be many more of them and they will still be significant in size for those locations. And I expect to see huge growth in the deployment of micro edge data centres worldwide, driven in part by the rollout of new 5G networks. I also believe the coming years will see a lot of non-traditional entrepreneurial initiatives, with new players shaking up the data centre landscape.  We live in exciting times!

Do you think it’s going to be possible to meet the industry’s increasing demand for new data centre capacity?

There is no doubt in my mind that the only way to roll out the new data centre capacity that the world is going to need will be through a combination of customisation, standardisation and prefabrication. In other words, by creating standard designs which are fit for prefabrication, customising them for customers’ specific operational models and then producing them in dedicated manufacturing facilities in order to secure the highest possible quality standards and repeatability with the lowest possible project risk.

Experts featured:

Jos Baart

Vice President of Sales and Marketing


5g Cloud colocation edge hyperscale trends
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