Top Data Center Trends and Predictions for 201521 min read

by | Dec 10, 2014 | Blog

What changes are in store for the data center in 2015? We set to find out by talking to industry experts Bruce Taylor, Ian Seaton, Vince Renaud, and Lars Strong, here’s what they had to say:

First and foremost, it may be useful to point out that some of the predictions and trends we will be talking about have been discussed in the past  from time to time. What we want to focus on here are not only predictions, but also trends that are now and already well along in the making. We have a tendency to forget how long it takes for any industry to actually make the full shift to a new and more disruptive paradigm. So perhaps the biggest prediction is the old saw, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Data and telco/network centers are really no different. Case in point, the handheld digital device formerly known as a cellphone has completely disrupted the global telecommunications industry, has driven great change down through the layers of the ICT stack, but has barely ruffled the surface of the waters on the physical facilities infrastructure side of the house.

Why? Because data centers are capitalized and built on very long time horizons. Disruptive technologies that perhaps should be adopted in power and cooling as an example, simply cannot be adopted (at least at scale) within an existing facility IF the original design did not call for them. That doesn’t mean there won’t be interesting tests, and discrete, smaller-scale proof-of-concept demonstrations for future planning – or even smaller, contained requirements that can be isolated from the production environment.

But a data center designed, built and commissioned yesterday using traditional, tried/true/trusted power and cooling models from tried/true/trusted partners will only very rarely be changed or upgraded in any significant way for years into the future. Five years at least; 10, perhaps, on average; and 15-plus for many – depending on industry sector served and its pace of change.

It is important to point out that no one has done anything “wrong” by continuing on with old, perhaps even outdated, design and technology, beyond incremental evolutionary improvements, because across corporate enterprise and government, the primary role of the data center capacity planner is to provide 24/7 uptime availability, reliability and resiliency. It is NOT – for the vast majority of businesses – to “innovate” (at least not much).

However, the people responsible for long-range capital planning may use the occasion of an “end-of-life” enterprise owned/operated data center to explore moving to new co-location facilities, managed services and cloud facilities in order to take advantage of gaining new technology, agility, and capital preservation and/or shifting CapEx to OpEx.

Having said that, the sheer growth in data, and digital intelligent devices of all kinds will drive profound global growth in data centers. Here are some of the current trends and future predictions either behind or resulting from this growth in data we will see in the coming year:

1. Internet of Things

Digitizing everything creates new business opportunities for managing the flow of data, creating new revenue sources, operating system controls, and extending businesses into new markets and technologies. Examples include utility billing and Uber ride-sharing.

  • Fixed-line is expected to carry over 90% of the traffic for industrial Internet of Things (IoT). Besides that, intelligent embedded systems will contribute 65% of all units. Telcos could gain from these by offering IoT-managed services, which is forecast to reach about U.S. $775 million by 2015 for the Asia Pacific region.
  • The data created by Internet of Everything (IoE) will reach 403 zettabytes (ZB) per year by 2018, up from 113 ZB in 2013. By 2018, IoE devices will create twice the amount of data end users transmit to data centers and be 47 times greater than total data center traffic.
  • There will be 30 billion connected end-points by 2020.
  • Small percentages of data that IoE produces locally (about 2%) will actually reach a data center, so plenty of opportunity exists for growing industry storage capacity far beyond current forecasts.
  • Adoption of technologies and services related to IoT will rise in 2015, particularly within the small and medium business markets and larger organizations that were not early adopters.
  • Industry consolidation is a key driver for wider IoT adoption, especially as market participants(via strategic alliances) work to define standards across the value chain.

2. The Rise of the Converged “Digital Enterprise”

The Digital Enterprise, to me, means the transformation of business from one where computing and networking technology is the extension of the human organization to one where the human and the digital – the real and the virtual – are converged and indistinguishable. The global business disruption of the Digital Enterprise is about convergence in four areas:

  • Convergence of the technologies of Social, Mobile, Sensing, the Internet of Things, Big Data/Analytics and Cloud;
  • Integration of the organizational functional/departmental siloes;
  • Blending of the real and the virtual;
  • Continuum, bi-directional, supply chain to customer and back.

3. Smaller owner-enterprise data centers to larger commercial data centers

  • IT spending decisions will migrate from CIO and IT departments to line-of-business management, as a relationship to achieving major business strategies becomes clearer. Therefore, IT investments will become business-growth and/or profitability-optimization investments.
  • Mega Data Centers: Due to the growing demand for cloud computing and financial scalability, companies are considering building mega or multiple data centers instead of single facilities.

4. Cloud – public and private

Consider the following from Cisco’s latest Cloud Index Report from Cisco:

  • In 2015, 70% of all workloads will be processed in cloud data centers.
  • Cloud data center traffic will increase 4X faster than traditional data center traffic.
  • Public cloud workload growth rate will be 50% higher than its private counterpart.
  • By 2018, 53% (2 billion) of the consumer Internet population will use personal cloud storage, up from 38% (922 million) in 2013.
  • Globally, consumer cloud storage traffic per user will be 811 MB per month by 2018, compared to 186 MB per month in 2013.
  • Cloud-based services provide consumers and businesses with access to applications and content through any device at any location, which contributes to the proliferation of mobile data communications and creates even more cloud-based traffic.
  • By 2018, more than three quarters (78%) of workloads will be processed by cloud data centers and almost a quarter (22%) will be processed by traditional data centers.
  • Overall data center workloads will nearly double from 2013 to 2018. However, cloud workloads will nearly triple over the same period.
  • Workload density (workloads per physical server) for cloud data centers will grow from 5.2 in 2013 to 7.5 by 2018. Comparatively for traditional data centers, workload density will grow from 2.2 in 2013 to 2.5 by 2018.
  • By 2018, 31% of cloud workloads will be in public cloud data centers, up from 22% in 2013 (CAGR of 33% from 2013 to 2018).
  • By 2018, 69% of cloud workloads will be in private cloud data centers, down from 78% in 2013 (CAGR of 21% from 2013 to 2018).
  • Global cloud IP traffic will account for more than three quarters (76%) of total data center traffic by 2018.
  • Though private cloud is larger than public cloud, public cloud will grow dramatically faster including hybrid clouds that mix private and public.
  • Cisco GCI forecasts that global consumer cloud storage traffic will grow from 2 exabytes (EB) annually in 2013 to 19.3 EB by 2018 at a CAGR of 57%. This growth translates to per-user traffic of 811 MB per month by 2018, compared to 186 MB per month in 2013.

5. Density per rack is slowly increasing but not at astronomical rates.

Yes, there are the 20-30kW racks out there but they don’t populate the typical enterprise data center. Most corporate data centers still are in the 2kW per rack average. On a side note – it is possible and practical to cool a 30kW rack with air utilizing the proper physical setup.

6. Liquid Cooling

Liquid cooling has made inroads into the bitcoin mining data center world as well as academic and scientific super computer deployments. Liquid cooling isn’t expected to reach its tipping point in 2015, but it will gain more traction in the marketplace.

7. Free Cooling

Free cooling is becoming nearly ubiquitous. States and municipalities who have adopted ASHRAE 90.1-2010 or 90.1-2013 into their building and/or energy codes already require some form of economization for any data center construction project (‘any’ typically defined as sensible load above 175 kW).

When ratified, the new ASHRAE 90.4 will relive the proscriptive requirement for free cooling, but will replace it with performance-based requirements essentially matching those achieved by free cooling. Therefore, wherever practical, implementing some form of economization will usually be more economically feasible than the alternatives.

Even without the directives for implementing free cooling, ROIs associated with free cooling just make good business sense since data centers in the cloud-based business universe are profit centers.

8. Computing Everywhere (mobility)

  • Smart devices continue to drive up traffic and call for adjustments to traditional methods of resource management and allocation.
  • IDC predicts wireless data traffic will increase 40% from 2014 to 2015, compared to 26% for total data traffic.
  • According to Gartner, the proliferation of mobile devices will result in an increased focus on creating models to meet the needs of mobile users in a wide variety of contexts and environments, rather than just focusing on utility of the devices themselves. Though unsure about data center impact other than the resultant traffic increase, IT management and vendors will need to consider the overall environment and resultant challenges associated with losing control of remote and wireless devices.

9. Data Traffic

  • By 2015, 91% of Internet traffic will be video, including HD and 3D video. However, the Internet is not currently designed for these needs.
  • Data center traffic will exceed five ZB in 2015 and 76% of that data will remain within the data center.
  • 50% of video is for downstream mobile traffic and businesses without physical infrastructure (such as Netflix) that make their revenue on the backs of companies like ATT, Verizon, and others. These riders will command 35% of U.S. peak downstream traffic.
  • Video-on-demand (VOD) services are a big driver in increased traffic volumes.
  • The legacy IT market (file server-based) will be relatively flat, with growth driven at around 15% from 2014 to 2015 by what IDC calls the third platform (mobile, cloud, big data, social networking, emerging markets, and cloud service providers).
  • According to Cisco, while traffic within the data center remains the largest segment of data traffic, data center-to-data center traffic will increase at a 25% higher rate than traffic within the data center and traffic between data centers and consumers.

10.  Containment becoming commonplace.

Most data centers are deploying – or planning on deploying – containment of some sort regardless of cabinet or rack density. Efficiency gains on the facility are growing quickly.

11. Falling TCO

DCIM provides data for making better decisions about migrating workloads between data centers, scheduling upgrades, and new construction projects.

  • The total cost of ownership for data center operations will decrease by 30% through smart machines and industrialized services. According to Gartner, by 2015, there will be more than 40 vendors offering managed services with smart machines and industrialized services.
  • The whole cloud phenomena supports the perception of the data center as a profit center rather than a cost center, especially for larger commercial data centers. As a result, management will be more focused on ROI, paybacks, and internal rates of return where data center investment is central to the business. Data Centers have become more efficient and standardized.
  • By 2015, global investment in energy-efficient data center technologies will represent 28% of the $150 billion data center infrastructure market, according to Pike Research.

12. Storage Growth

Dropping prices of solid state storage increases its attractiveness. Some industry analysts claim that solid state disks (SSD) will become the de facto standard for online computing in the coming year. They attribute this to a rapid decrease in pricing, larger capacity, and read/write endurance. SSD also assists in supporting latency and speed issues associated with far-flung and continuously moving virtual data centers.

Nearly 50% of the consumer Internet population will use personal cloud storage, reflecting a 700% increase to 8000 EB from 2010 to 2015.

13. Virtualization

  • There will be expansion into virtual desktop infrastructure and improvements in security.
  • Virtualization drives the density-critical mass that makes the cloud such an attractive model.
  • The cloud has a greater degree of virtualization, contributing to economic gains of tripling workload density per server.

14. Networks

Software-defined networks and 100/400G switching hardware.

15. Big Data

  • There will be more information.
  • Business processes will be subject to change through incorporating the latest analytics solutions.
  • Migration from Building Management systems to Data Center Information Management will be a better integration of facilities and IT.
  • Data volumes will exceed 6 trillion terabytes (TB).
  • IDC predicts IT spending on big data will grow 30% from 2014 to 2015.

16. The Human Element

At least for larger data centers, particularly in virtualized cloud environments, we can expect a trend toward recruiting a higher talent-level of data center management and operational staff. This will be due to the complexity of integrating IT and facility infrastructures, as well as implementing and managing more automated systems that will be making decisions that are either impossible or highly impractical at the human level.

17. Automated Exchange Trading of Compute and Cloud Capacity

The app-centric speed and agility requirements of business will drive the requirement to acquire compute/cloud/data center capacity on open trading exchanges with all requirements – including availability, performance, risk and security – agreed within trade contract.

18. Consolidation

  • Mergers, acquisitions, and failures will reduce the number of players, particularly in cloud data centers.
  • IDC predicts by 2017, there will be only 6 to 8 mega global players in IaaS, maybe fewer.
  • As mentioned before, industry consolidation is a key driver for wider IoT adoption, especially as market participants (via strategic alliances) work to define standards across the value chain. Also, enhanced tools in cloud computing, big data, and analytics combined with rigorous IoT cybersecurity will begin to decrease machine-to-machine complexity. These developments will drive user confidence and lead to new business models, better outcomes (such as enhanced customer experience), and a more clearly defined and understood ROI.

19. Industrialized Data Center

  • Modularization in data center design will be combined with more flexible approaches to provisioning. This is part of a broader shift to an industrialized view of the data center.
  • Pre-fabricated data centers will gain traction, especially with colocation companies, because of the ease of scaling and expanding to more responsively address shorter planning horizons in a competitive outsourcing market.
  • Data Centers have become more efficient and standardized.
  • Greater adoption of Modular Designs: Factory-built data centers grew significantly, with flexible modular concepts focused on energy efficiency and rapid deployment.
  • Innovations in Portable Data Centers: A strong demand for turnkey data center programs, which are essentially a plug-and-play raised-floor data center space that shifts development costs from tenant to landlord, and allows for quicker deployment than if the customer built a new facility.


  1. Gordon Watson

    Great article, and I too believe there will be continued consolidation in the market. SE’s acquisition of AST Modular last year signaled an industry move to grabbing more marketing share in the burgeoning modular data center market.

    Regards Gordon

  2. Tom Hurley

    My prediction is that sometime soon the States and Feds will step in and Demand efficiency in the Data Centers. By some metric, the facility will be graded and Fees (aka Taxes) will be assessed. When that happens a new variable will be introduced to TCO.


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