As humans require more and more computing power and more and more cloud storage, we’re going to need more and more data centres. So what do the data centres of the future look like?
The expansion of 5G technology across the world and with projects like Elon Musk’s Starlink promising to provide the entire globe with ultra-high-speed internet, the vast majority of our computing power is no longer bound by what we can process on-location. Much of our computing is already done on the cloud in some form and this is a trend that is only likely to accelerate. Data centres could be housed in cool remote places to ensure maximum efficiency and low costs.
There will probably be very few humans in the data centres of the future. This provides the opportunity for massive energy and cost-saving measures. If there is no one there, doors don’t need to be opened, climate-controlled rooms won’t be disturbed, lighting is all but unnecessary, and most management of the facilities could be either automated or done remotely. Dataspan.com have also rightly pointed out that “Because of the global pandemic’s impacts on social distancing, remote management of the data centre is now a priority for safety purposes alongside smarter resource allocation.” Obviously, engineers (both software and hardware) will still be required, but much of their work will be done before the data centre has even opened.
This is also an inevitability as humanity requires more and more computing power to fuel our ever-rising demand on cloud and edge computing, big data analytics, and artificial intelligence and machine learning. Forbes commented in their Forbes Insights series that, “Decentralization—moving data, processing and resources away from the organization’s local data centre or corporate hub, out as far as edge devices—will help enable faster processing. A decentralization approach may also involve shifting resources and focus.”
As Ed Butler, CEO of cloud hosting firm Amito, wrote for datacenterdynamics, Covid has shown that even the arguments for on-site cloud services are running thin.
“Experience showed that those businesses that had argued the case that on premise cloud services meant maintaining control and having close oversight of their data assets, found the opposite was true. We saw IT managers having to make hard decisions about how to fix servers, manage upgrades and trouble-shoot during lockdown. At the same, businesses with hosted cloud environments were able to operate almost seamlessly.”
Covid also fuelled our need for cloud programs to fuel remote work and our increasing reliance upon the digital space for continuation of normal life and this is not a trend that is likely to be reversed – remote working is here to stay. Amr Alashaal, Regional Vice President for the Middle East at A10 Networks told intelligentdatacentres: “We’ve become an application-centric society. The cloud has played a huge role as we move away from strictly on-premises data centres to a hybrid cloud and multi-cloud approach. And, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on how we are building, delivering and consuming our applications.”
As data centres have grown in size and power, the power density of the racks has made cool a significant issue. In the past 1 kW per rack may have been considered a high power density, but by 2018 the average was approaching 7kW – a seven-fold increase. Larger data centres have been known to house racks with 15-20kW, with these numbers likely to increase significantly in the future as our need for processing and computing power grows. This makes the case for remote and automated data centres in the cooler parts of the world all the more important for environmental and cost-saving reasons. The rapid growth of emerging markets and the ever-growing number of people using laptops and smartphones as technology advances will only fuel the need for ever-larger rigs and more computing power.
Data centres of the future are likely to be massive, unmanned facilities, powering our cloud-driven world from the northern-most reaches of Canada, Siberia, and Scandinavia. So if you like the quiet life and covid has given you a taste of what working and communicating remotely might look like, maybe have a look for a position managing one of these facilities – you’re unlikely to be disturbed!
By Josh Hamilton
Josh Hamilton is an aspiring journalist and writer who has written for a number of publications involving Cloud computing, Fintech and Legaltech. Josh has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Law from Queen’s University in Belfast. Studies included, Politics of Sustainable Development, European Law, Modern Political Theory and Law of Ethics.