Vertiv CEO Rob Johnson discusses emerging data center trends for 2020 and argues speed of deployment will dominate c-suite debates. Johnson argues organisations will increasingly forego the enterprise-or-cloud paradigm in favour of hybrid architectures that incorporate public and private cloud models and edge assets around a reconfigured core.
Trending hybrid architectures will allow organizations to maintain control of sensitive data while still meeting soaring demands for more capacity and increased computing capabilities closer to the consumer. As connectivity and availability become conjoined concepts in this new data ecosystem, an increasing premium will be placed on seamless communication from core to cloud to edge.
According to Vertiv CEO Rob Johnson, a new equilibrium is emerging in the data centre space as the industry wrestles with capacity challenges and advanced applications that are forcing significant changes to data centres of all shapes and sizes.
“At the same time, speed of deployment is increasingly becoming a tipping point in technology decisions and will likely shape investment and innovation in the space as we head into 2020. This will manifest itself in many ways, but the message to data centre equipment providers is clear: The status quo is not acceptable,” says Johnson.
In 2020, we can expect to see the following trends in this space:
Hybrid architectures go mainstream
While cloud computing will continue to be an important part of most organizations’ IT strategy, we are seeing a subtle change in strategy as organizations seek to tailor their IT mix and spending to the needs of their applications. As we see more of these hybrid architectures, it becomes increasingly clear that the enterprise data centre is alive and well, even if its role is changing to reflect a mix that best serves modern organizations.
Speed of deployment as the new space race
As capabilities across technologies and systems flatten out, data centre and IT managers will increasingly turn to other criteria for selecting equipment. Cost is always a separator, but more and more the decision will depend on how quickly assets can be deployed.
When all other factors are close, any advantage in speed of deployment and activation can be the determining factor. This is especially true as computing continues to migrate to the edge in today’s distributed networks, where delivery delays mean lack of service – and revenue.
Average rack density remains static, but…
Although average rack density is likely to reflect marginal increases at best, the surge in advanced applications and workloads related to artificial intelligence (AI), such as machine learning and deep learning, will make pockets of high-performance computing necessary and more common.
Vertiv says it anticipates early activity in this space in the areas of defence, advanced analytics and manufacturing in 2020, laying the foundation for more widespread adoption in 2021 and beyond. These racks so far represent a miniscule percentage of total racks, but they nevertheless can present unfamiliar power and cooling challenges that must be addressed. The increasing interest in direct liquid cooling is a response to high-performance computing demands.
Batteries pay it forward
In 2016, Vertiv claims it predicted lithium-ion batteries would begin to find a home in the data centre, and that has proven to be true as lithium-ion today holds a significant share of the UPS battery market. That share is growing and starting to extend to edge sites, where the smaller footprint and reduced maintenance requirements are a natural fit. The next step is leveraging the flexibility of lithium-ion and other emerging battery alternatives, such as thin plate pure lead (TPPL), to offset their costs.
As we move into 2020, Vertiv claims more organizations will start to sell the stored energy in these batteries back to the utility to help with grid stabilization and peak shaving. Expect this to be an important part of larger conversations around sustainability in the data centre industry.
The U.S., particularly Silicon Valley, has been the epicentre of the digital universe and this generation of data centre development, but innovation happens everywhere. A parallel digital ecosystem with notable differences is emerging in China.
Data centres across Europe and in other Asian and South Pacific markets, such as Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, are evolving and diverging from traditional practices based on specific regional issues related to data privacy and controls and sustainability. For example, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance is driving hard decisions around data management around the world.
Those issues, and more vigorous attention to environmental impacts, are leading to new thinking about hybrid architectures and the value of on-premise computing and data storage. In China, some data centres have been running 240V DC power into manufacturer-modified servers to improve efficiency and reduce costs.
DC power has long been a theoretical goal for U.S. data centres, and it’s not hard to envision other parts of the world adopting the model being embraced today in China.
(Ed. Last month, Vertiv announced it will become a publicly traded company through a merger with GS Acquisition Holdings Corp. The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of this year, at which point Vertiv’s stock will trade under the ticker symbol NYSE: VRT.)