Data centres take cue from media: Go small and hyperlocal

data centreWhen it comes to data centres, we’ve all seen trends come and go, from homegrown to massive to eco-friendly. But the prevalence of the cloud and the shifting way consumers use data may be pushing things in a new direction.

Tomorrow’s data centre might be quite a bit smaller and right next door.

That’s one conclusion of a new survey of 800 data centre professionals by power and infrastructure vendor Emerson Network Power.  According to the report, “Data Center 2025: Exploring the Possibilities,” consumer demands for reliability and accessibility of increasingly large volumes of content will force providers to house data closer to end users, putting the squeeze on mid-size data centers.

 “As consumers continue to rely on 24/7 mobile access, network boundaries as they are known today will evolve,” said Emerson Network Power business leader Scott Barbour. “Shifting storage and compute requirements will lead the industry to adopt a more flexible data centre ecosystem and simplify the way we access business data while on the go.”

Barbour and his team predict the growing demand for storage and access will result in a transition of traffic loads to small-scale data locations.  More than 30 percent of survey participants say they expect small data centres to be embedded in neighborhood settings by 2025. Fifty-eight percent say data centres will be roughly half the size of current facilities, or smaller within that same timeframe.

The respondents also say nearly two-thirds (60 percent) of telecom companies will become or converge with colocation data facilities as a result of this new efficiency-based data centre management approach.

Getting data closer to where it will be consumed is a significant issue when it comes to sorting out the bandwidth and backhaul limitations that can slow cloud applications and related initiatives like the Internet of Things. That’s a big part of the so-called “fog computing” approach being championed by Cisco Systems Inc. that pushes data, processing and applications out to the network edge.

Cisco sees fog enabling expanded use of Internet-connected devices by pushing the reams of data being created and crunched out to edge  and end-user devices like set-top boxes and routers. The vendor earlier this year even released a mashup of Linux and its own IOS operating system dubbed IOx, specifically designed to run self-contained applications of networked devices.

“Think about the idea that every single bit of data [has] to be backhauled to a cloud-based application so it can be analyzed,” Cisco’s senior director of IoT products and solutions marketing Roberto De La Mora wrote in a blog post introducing IOx. “We are going to run into the ‘Data Gravity’ issue pretty fast. You can put all your data somewhere, but as it grows in size it becomes very expensive to move it around.

“It’s getting very clear that the Internet of Things requires a different computing model, one that enables distributed processing of data with the level of resiliency, scale, speed, and mobility that is required to efficiently and effectively deliver the value that the data that is being generated can create when properly processed across the network.”

And so the respondents to Emerson’s survey agree, whether they have designs on IoT implementations or are just concerned about sharing the road with cloud applications.

In addition to going smaller and more local, the Emerson report includes key findings that mirror the concerns about cost, reliability and availability of data:

  • A prediction that 20 percent of the energy used by data centres in the next decade will come from alternative fuel sources, most prevalently solar followed by nuclear, natural gas and wind power.
  • Roughly 43 percent of survey participants say that, by 2025, data centers will have self-healing and predictive maintenance capabilities and will use remote management tools to solve problems.

“The data centre of 2025 certainly won’t be one data centre,” said 451 Research vice president Andy Lawrence. “The analogy I like to use is to transport. On the road, we see sports cars and family cars; we see buses and we see trucks. They have different kinds of engines, different types of seating and different characteristics in terms of energy consumptions and reliability. We are going to see something similar to that in the data center world.

“In fact that is already happening, and I expect it to continue.”

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