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Q&A: What the data centre market looks like in today’s post-pandemic

Wed 15 Jun 2022

Techerati speaks with Giancarlo Giacomello at Aruba Enterprise about the latest data centre management trends and what the market looks like in today’s post-pandemic world.

Data centres are complex infrastructures – what are the top priorities when it comes to efficiently managing them? 

Now, industry operators must consider factors such as ensuring sustainability regulations are met, adapting their work patterns, and expanding their capacity to meet increased demand. A lot to handle here, however, to ensure facilities are run efficiently and with minimal disruption, reliability and resilience should remain at the top of the agenda for operators. Creating clearly defined protocols and policies is an important first step towards accomplishing this.

As well as this, data centre operators are paying more attention than ever to the amount of energy they are using. Global Wholesale energy costs have reached an all-time high during the last year, due to a number of different issues. When things finally seemed to start getting back on a descending trend, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caused costs to rise again. With this in mind, keeping costs to a minimum is a key concern. Managers can achieve this whilst still looking into renewable energy.

Linked closely to this, is the issue of data centre sustainability. With energy costs rising, prioritising sustainability is not only the ‘ethical’ thing to do, but also makes sound economic sense. Today, being carbon neutral, obtaining the right certifications, and harnessing sustainable materials and renewable energy are some of the requirements that IT managers have when looking for a data centre provider. Therefore, it’s imperative that operators focus on re-evaluating and enhancing operations to become more energy efficient.

Another top priority is the continued need for strengthening infrastructure. With the widespread shift to remote working and employees accessing networks from a range of locations and devices, a number of potential physical security risks have emerged that simply did not exist before. Therefore, operators need to focus on maximising the resiliency of their systems and protecting their infrastructure from these problems.

What are the most significant challenges facing data centre colocation operators today?

Like all industries at the moment, rising costs due to inflation is one the main obstacles currently facing the data centre industry. Putting rising energy costs aside for the moment, metals like copper have doubled in price over the last couple of years. This increased cost means there’s a great deal of risk for those operating in the sector.

On the upside however, market demand and growth are remaining strong so far. Moving forward, we need to continue to develop our infrastructures to be the most resilient, efficient and effective for our customers.

…while the issue of sustainability was already on the agenda for data centre operators and customers alike, the pandemic no doubt accelerated this

Secondly, the explosion in popularity of cloud computing has placed a much greater strain on the data centre market in recent years. Demand is showing no signs of slowing down, and some providers are struggling to ensure they have the capacity to facilitate this.

What impact has the Covid-19 pandemic had on your colocation offerings?

Covid-19 has undeniably had a direct impact on the colocation market. At the beginning of the pandemic, we had to re-learn how to manage projects in unprecedented circumstances. Having navigated a switch to remote working and removed all personnel from sites, the real challenge was to simply to keep delivering for our customers.

Thanks to the rising cost of raw materials and supply chain disruption, the pandemic has also had a major impact on lead times. Before the pandemic, vendors requiring 4 weeks of lead time for a certain component now could take up to 12 or even more. In some cases they are not even providing certain dates anymore. Taking this into consideration, IT managers can expect projects to be severely delayed.

Last but not least, while the issue of sustainability was already on the agenda for data centre operators and customers alike, the pandemic no doubt accelerated this agendas. More and more companies are now asking for information pertaining to environmental causes and effects, a key requirement of every provider out there. This goes to show how much of an impact the pandemic has had on our industry.

What is your preferred cloud solution that you would encourage IT managers to use? What are the benefits?

Hybrid cloud solutions provide a bespoke combination of both public and private cloud technologies, customised to a company’s requirements and objectives. In other words, IT managers can get the best of both worlds. The list of benefits is huge, but includes security, scalability, cost, and compliance.

Firstly, the inherent flexibility of hybrid cloud enables IT teams to prepare for all eventualities. For instance, when unexpected demand spikes happen, teams can easily procure additional public cloud capacity for dynamic, short-term workloads. Meanwhile, more static long-term workloads can be stored on-premises. This enables businesses to keep their cloud infrastructure lean, without either running out of capacity or acquiring expensive, rarely used excess capacity.

…the demand isn’t for faster machines, but for machines that are more energy-efficient

Hybrid offerings also enable organisations to achieve total compliance with regional and industry standards, while simultaneously generating important evidence for auditing purposes. This is because hybrid solutions allow IT leaders to maintain their own storage and networking infrastructure (for long term or sensitive data workloads), while storing other data (like dynamic workloads) in the cloud.

Another benefit of hybrid cloud is cost efficiency. With salaries on the rise, growing user demands, supply chain disruption and soaring energy costs, many CIOs are under pressure to minimise costs and keep within their IT budgets. So, they’re turning to hybrid solutions to achieve this.

Looking ahead, how do you expect the data centre market to transform in 2022 and beyond? What trends can we expect to see?

As legacy infrastructure is being replaced with newer, modernised ones, we can expect the market to continue to expand. There are a number of trends we’re seeing at the moment.

One trend we’re seeing is the development of new machines with greater computing power and performance; this will enable operators to better manage the increasing amounts of data they’ll be handling. However, the demand isn’t for faster machines, but for machines that are more energy-efficient, combining the two key elements of environmental impact and level of service. With this approach, energy usage is reduced (lower environmental impact) and costs are minimised.

Another entirely different trend is high density colocation: new, more powerful, more energy-efficient machines in denser racks to minimise the footprint of an installation, while aiming to keep the same computational performances. We can expect the popularity of high density to continue in this sector, but the question is, for how long?

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