5 trends driving the design of next-generation data centers
Data centers have become a core component of modern living, containing and distributing the information required to participate in everything from a social life, to the economy. Data centers consumed 3 percent of the world’s electricity in 2017, and new technologies are only increasing their energy demand.
The growth of high-performance computing — as well as answers to growing cyber-security threats and efficiency concerns — are dictating the development of the next generation of data centers.
But what will these new data centers need in order to overcome the challenges the industry faces? Here is a look at some major trends that will impact data center design in the future.
The largest companies in the world are increasingly consolidating computing power in massive, highly efficient hyperscale data centers that can keep up with the increasing demands of enterprise applications. These powerful data centers are mostly owned by tech giants like Amazon or Facebook, and there are currently around 490 of them in existence with more than 100 more in development.
It’s estimated that these behemoths will contain more than 50 percent of all data that passes through data centers by 2021, as companies take advantage of their immense capabilities to implement modern business intelligence solutions and grapple with the computing requirements of the Internet of Things (IoT).
The efficiency of data centers is both an environmental concern and a large-scale economic issue for operators. Enterprises in diverse industries from automotive design to financial forecasting are implementing and relying on machine-learning in their applications, which results in more expensive and high-temperature data center infrastructure. It’s widely known that power and cooling represent the biggest costs that data center owners have to contend with, but new technologies are emerging to combat this threat.
Liquid cooling is swiftly becoming more popular for those building new data centers, because of its incredible efficiency and its ability to future-proof data centers against the increasing heat being generated by demand for high-performance computing. The market is expected to grow to $2.5 billion by 2025 as a result.
One of the most successful technologies that data center operators have put into practice to improve efficiency is monitoring software that implements the critical advances made in machine learning and artificial intelligence. Machines are much more capable of reading and predicting the needs of data centers second to second than their human counterparts, and with their assistance operators can manipulate cooling solutions and power usage in order to dramatically increase energy efficiency.
In the two-year period between 2015 and 2017, more data was created than in all of preceding history. As this exponential growth continues, we may soon see the sheer quantity data outstrip the ability of hard drives to capture it. But researchers are exploring the possibility of storing this immense amount of data within DNA, as it is said that a single gram of DNA is capable of storing 215 petabytes (215 million gigabytes) of information.
DNA storage could provide a viable solution to the limitations of encoding on silicon storage devices, and meet the requirements of an ever-increasing number of data centers despite land constraints near urban areas. But it comes with its own drawbacks.
Although it has improved considerably, it is still expensive and extremely slow to write data to DNA. Furthermore, getting data back from DNA involves sequencing it, and decoding files and finding / retrieving specific files stored on DNA is a major challenge. However, based on Microsoft Research Data, algorithms currently being developed may lower the cost of sequencing and synthesizing DNA plunge to levels that make it feasible in the future.
The average cost of a cyber-attack to the impacted businesses will be more than $150 million by 2020, and data centers are at the center of the modern data security fight.
Colocation facilities have to contend with the security protocols of multiple customers, and the march of data into the cloud means that hackers can gain access to it through multiple devices or applications. New physical and cloud security features are going to be critical for the evolution of the data center industry, including biometric security measures on-site to prevent physical access by even the most committed thieves or hackers.
More strict security guidelines for cloud applications and on-site data storage will be a major competitive advantage for the most effective data center operators going forward as cyber-attacks grow more costly and more frequent.
The digital economy is growing more dense and complex every single day, and data center builders and operators need to upgrade and build with the rising demand for artificial intelligence and machine learning in mind. This will necessitate greener, more automated, more efficient and more secure data centers to be able to safely host the services of the next generation of digital companies.