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Where is The Next Datacenter?

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As the volume of data created each second continues to grow the issue of datacenters and what to do with them inevitably comes into question. The amount of data produced each year is now 3,733 times more than it was back in 2000! But where does it all go? Who is in charge? Who is monitoring this data to ensure it isn’t being abused? Are the datacenters secure? Energy efficient? My brain hurts. So many questions. But where do we go next? 

To try and answer this question you need to look at the driving force behind datacentres.

Energy Efficiency 

Anyone seeking to update, futureproof or evolve their datacenters will probably agree that energy efficiency and technical capability are arguably the issues most centralised to the future.

Colin Rees, IT Director at Domino’s Pizza believes reducing energy consumption will create improved utilization of cloud datacentres and new partnerships. Adoption to the cloud can help drive efficiency by reducing peak load and the capacity requirements of the equipment. It’s no secret that the costs and energy consumption of datacenters is extreme. It can however be argued that emerging technologies have the potential to improve the efficient design and operation of datacenters as Rees states. 

Some also argue that the technology already exists to increase energy efficiency and cut costs. Hot and cold-aisle separation, air monitoring and temperature control are all proven measures in-place. The willingness to dedicate budget to increase uniformity of these measures may well shape the future of the datacenter.

Cost

CTOs, CIOs and those in charge are well aware of the spiralling costs of datacenters. These shrewd operators know more than anyone where they are spending their ‘energy dollars’. Various measures such as relocation to where the power is cheapest have been put in place to reduce costs but these are only an intermediary measure. 

The budget and willingness to spend on datacentre evolution will be key for the future. Pinpointing value, minimizing expense and bridging the physical and virtual all require investment and thought leadership.

One thing is for sure, energy efficiency and the ability to control the costs of spiralling datacenters will be crucial for the future. As will any government legislation around it. 

Security and Legislation

Data wouldn’t be data without the issue of data protection rearing its head. Companies need their datacenters to be cost effective yet secure as potentially massive penalties can be imposed for data breaches or improper use. There have been numerous instances in the past of businesses fined for breaches of data regulation. AvMed paid out $3.5 million, while Sony were slapped with a £250,000 penalty for breach back in 2011. Despite the Freedom of Information Act privacy issues remain core to online data and companies have been known to choose datacenters primarily based on location affording the best protection.

Business and Industry Specific Issues

IT has grown to such an extent that the potential for its use is almost limitless. Businesses can do almost anything they want with the reams of data available (legally of course). The job of those at a high level is to figure out what, where and how the company can use the data. Here lies an immense opportunity to change the face of a business; but how far can the business go? These restraints aren’t technological but practical and will undoubtedly guide the path of the future datacenters. There is massive scope to evolve the use of data but it needs to serve a practical function instead of just constant conceptualization and “oh this would be a good idea” moments. Facebook seized the initiative in this respect by creating an entirely new, highly functioning datacentre in Altoona, Iowa

Conclusion

As far as the future goes, much remains uncertain. Without change and at current velocity, energy consumption by datacenters will account for 18% of the world’s greenhouse emissions by 2020. Technological challenges include managing the increasing cost, size and scale of the centres. Whether new ‘data factories’ emerge or more and more business opt for a ‘build-your-own’ Facebook style approach - much is to be factored in. It’s time for decisions to be made.

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