Predictions for 2020: how data centres will develop and trends to be aware of
- Published: Friday, 15 November 2019 09:44
Jackson Lee, Vice President of Corporate Development, at Colt Data Centre Services, looks ahead to 2020 and the technology, market, and regulatory trends that will impact data centres / centers around the world.
2019 was a year of new technology trends promising to alter our business landscape as we know it. Safe to say not all these trends came fully to fruition but they did lay the groundwork for the coming years and we are excited to see where this takes us. So, what does 2020 have in store?
Hyperscale is here to stay
2019 saw an uptick in smaller data centre facilities. Designed for smaller workloads, the demand for decentralised micro data centres grew, raising questions around the need for hyperscale data centres in years to come.
But hyperscale is here to stay. In fact, the demand for these large-scale centralised data centres is set to reach new heights in 2020, with bigger than ever data centres entering the scene.
As digital companies expand into new markets, Asia and Europe will take the lead in terms of new hyperscale builds. Smaller facilities are not commonplace in these regions where regulations and barriers surrounding new builds have limited the number of facilities providers can enact.
On the flipside, in the US, a more mature market where the data centre new build market is much easier to navigate, will see a slowdown in hyperscale facilities in 2020.
Sustainability is the name of the game
I believe that 2020 will be the year that legislators realise that the climate crisis is a real issue.
We will see legislations that require data centre new builds fulfil a green power quota coming into play. In fact, we can expect some regulators holding back permits for new data centre builds as a result of limited power supply.
We already saw this within the Dutch municipalities of Amsterdam and Haarlemmermeer, where there were calls for an immediate stop to the construction of data centres in the region to ensure that public reliance on the power grid would not be impacted as a result of power-hungry data centre facilities.
Adding 5G into the mix in 2020 can only mean there is less power to go around! Unable to travel the distance like its far-reaching predecessor 4G, 5G will need more wireless receivers to create substantial aggregation points. This will inevitably increase the power supplies needed to keep the network working effectively.
There is a likelihood that some governments around the world will limit data centre operations in order to fulfil the power needs of both the public and corporations alike.
AI will be limited in its capabilities
This year sparked off many a conversation around AI and its use cases across various industries. Within the data centre sector, conversations centred around how providers can support businesses in undertaking this technology and in terms of how data centre facilities themselves are employing AI to elevate their operations.
The tail-end of the year saw many coming to the stark realisation that AI can be limited in the benefits it can bring. Within the data centre industry, for example, AI was forecast to be a fantastic replacement for building management systems. It was believed that AI could take over the role engineers played in carrying out the manual facility management processes. Yet, that simply has not and will not happen given the need for engineers on-site to make specific judgement calls.
2020 will be the year where the industry realises that while AI can be a fantastic extension to enhancing human capabilities, it cannot work independently or replace human roles within facility management. Instead, skilled engineers will be more in demand to ensure that AI can effectively be incorporated into any data centre facilities to drive higher value for end customers.
Change will be slow to come
The data centre industry has historically been known to be resistant to change.
For instance, we saw a new cooling technology come into play over a decade ago which involved placing servers in water to help regulate the temperature. Both cost-effective and power-efficient, it took off significantly in some regions like the US, yet even after a decade later, the widespread roll-out of that has yet to come.
In 2020, what needs to change the most is the mindset of data centre providers. ‘Why change something that isn’t broken’ can be a safe option but it will inevitably leave providers lagging behind other industries in harnessing the benefits of fast-moving technology solutions.
Whether it’s integrating a new technology or implementing a new design, providers need to be thinking about offering the best possible solution for their customers. And often times, this will involve changes to current ways of operating.
2020 will hopefully be the year that providers embrace change.
Data centre industry growth will reach new heights… and new locations
2020 will see more and more businesses recognising the data centre sector as a lucrative business opportunity. Hoteliers and real estate companies, for example, will start branching out into data centre new builds.
We’ll also see more non-data centre establishments investing big money into the industry. One way this will occur is through acquisitions of smaller data centre operators looking to scale up.
As a result, the already competitive data centre market, will become even more so.
We’ll also see regions that have not historically been associated with data centre builds opening new facilities. Data centre hubs like the US and Europe will start reaching saturation point, forcing providers to extend their builds into newer areas.
Major cities with large population and heavy digital reliance will require a high bandwidth of connectivity, making them the new target markets in years to come. Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and even Malaysia will become new regions to watch for providers.
These emerging markets will allow providers an easier inroad due to fewer restrictions from regulations. Providers will also find themselves facing better cost-saving opportunities as they can serve these markets through on-site facilities rather than having to do it remotely from the nearest country, for instance.