Although data centers are the backbone of our internet, they are often hidden in plain sight. They are responsible for storing, communicating and transporting the information we create every single second. Higher the amount of data created, higher will be the importance of data centers. With more than 175 zettabytes of data expected by 2025, we can safely assume that the importance of the data center will only grow deeper in ingestion, computation, storage, and management of information.
A Gartner research reveals that 56% of companies are looking to shift the focus of their IT budget individually on the data center’s infrastructure and operations. However, the truth is that many of today’s data centers are clunky, outdated, and inefficient. So, how will data center and IT industry go hand-in-hand in future?
How are data centers evolving?
In this section, we will take a deep dive into several aspects of data centers and how they are transforming for the future.
Interest in cheap and clean energy
Due to higher affordability, the trend of placing energy-hungry data centers next to cheap power sources in on rising. For instance, both Facebook and Apple have built their data centers near hydropower source. It is also a cleaner alternative. As big companies are often criticized for using dirty energy to power data centers, clean sources have become considerably important.
Transforming the structure
Structure is one of the main responsible factors for ensuring the reliability and longevity of data centers. CB Insights notes that one of the main recent transformations in data center construction is size. Some data centers have increasingly become smaller and more distributed – known as edge data centers. On the other hand, some have even bigger than before and more centralized – known as mega data centers.
Spiked interest in emerging markets
Establishing a data center in a hotspot of growing internet traffic can ease congestion and speed up service to region. It is also a premeditated business move. If local businesses are booming, it is sure that they will consider moving their operations to the nearest data center. For instance, in 2018, China’s Tencent placed its data centers in Mumbai.
Innovation of new data centers
In addition to changing the structure, companies are also devoting research and development to create entirely new data centers. Today, several companies are trying to develop data centers that run in and on the ocean. One of the most impressive examples of using ocean for natural cooling in Microsoft’s Project Natick, which runs 100% of locally generated renewable energy from solar, on-shore wind, and off-shore tide energy.
Alternative forms of data storage
While SSDs, HDDs, CDs, and magnetic tapes are the most common means of data storage, there are a number of other emerging storage technologies that come with promises of greater storage capacity per unit. For instance, one potential example is heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR). This technology is expected to generate 20TB of HDD storage on one 3.5-inch drive by 2020.
How energy will be the key of data centers?
Currently, data centers consume around 3% of global electricity. However, this electricity isn’t always clean. In future, there are two main ways for data centers to diminish emissions – make sure that the energy being used is clean, and make energy usage inside a data center more efficient.
Lessening consumption and increasing energy efficiency
The data center industry has shown is inclination towards improving energy use. In 2016, DeepMind and Google worked on an AI recommendation system which will help make Google’s data center more energy efficient.
There are also methods practiced to change parts of a data center that overheat – for instance, servers or specific types of chips are cooled. One such technique utilizes liquid instead of air to cool parts. Google claims that its newly developed chips are so powerful that they have had to submerge them in liquid to cool them properly.
Buying cleaner energy
While big companies have the means to buy larger amount of cleaner energy, it can be difficult for smaller companies that don’t need great amount of energy. An example of an expensive energy option is micro-gridding – installing an independent energy source within a data center.
Another way that data centers are experimenting with clean energy is through renewable energy credits (RECs). For any amount of dirty energy created, RECs reflect the production of an equivalent amount of clean energy in the world. These REC-backed amounts are then sold in the renewable energy market.