Major Data Center Trends from a Property Operations Perspective

March 3, 2016
Asa Donohugh

I’m the guy on the ground as Digital Realty’s data center Director of Operations at 365 Main Street in San Francisco, meeting prospects, addressing customer needs, overseeing modernization initiatives, and keeping things running at the levels our data center clients expect and deserve. Data center trends for me are “those things real companies are most concerned about, here and now.” One of the biggest of these is colocation. Given both our metro location and the proliferation of startups and young companies in and around San Francisco, colocation is where “my” data center is heading today.

Here’s the rest of my list:

Design Flexibility
A financial services firm has a different risk profile than an early stage start up. In both cases, uptime is important, but the best way to get and stay there will differ. If you're interacting with global financial markets, you may require a solid gold 2N electrical system or better, plus a fail-safe cooling system, whereas the early stage start up can probably supplement their redundancy in the public cloud or through geographically dispersed data centers. The early stage start up may only need an N level of physical redundancy since they have built in their redundancy at the application level. This can translate into significant savings for a new company. That is why I believe we will see data center providers offering more modular based designs to support more flexibility for customers. It's high on the shopping list for 2016.

Beveiliging
After several high profile security breaches have made big news, companies are more concerned than ever about data center security. In previous years, security audits focused mostly on physical security controls. Today, though, we see greater emphasis on a holistic approach to controls in place for various data center systems. Effectively securing a data center in 2016 requires a wrap-around approach, comprised of physical security, information security, incident management, business continuity and compliance: state-of-the-art systems and policies, integrated, tested and vigilantly maintained. Threats to security and clients' understanding of them are growing in tandem today.

Naleving
Compliance with national and international standards has great business value. For data centers, physical security and availability are the primary focus. Most commonly used, the SOC 2 audit criteria are based on Sys Trust principles that map to the organization's internal controls and provide assurance that security and availability standards have been audited by an independent third party. In addition, data center providers may support customers' efforts to achieve compliance with specific industry standards, such as PCI-DSS or FISMA. Europe's ISO regulations set the standard in several areas of data center operations, including, most commonly today, security. In all these cases, third party compliance audits give clients assurance that your data center practices and data center facilities meet or exceed industry norms.

Interconnectie
With more rich apps and more streaming services, the demand for bandwidth is soaring. My prediction is that data center interconnection will be a key initiative this year and for at least the next five. Major metropolitan data center connectivity hubs are key to delivering both bigger data pipes and higher speed to customers who need both. Data center operators are no longer stopping their services offering with space, power and cooling. Now, they're offering a multitude of connectivity products too.

Duurzaamheid
Data centers consume about 3% of the world's energy, about the same as the airline industry. In the bad old days, every kW of power a data center used required an additional kW to cool it. Most data center operators have realized that improving the operating efficiency is not only better for the planet but better for the bottom line, as well. Digital Realty has embraced the Department of Energy's Better Buildings challenge and achieved nationally recognized results. We've helped Emerson develop cooling systems that save literally millions of gallons of water every year. We've replaced conventional lighting with LEDs at many of our facilities. We're helping some of our biggest customers achieve ambitious sustainable energy goals with wind and solar power. I believe this trend will only escalate in 2016 and beyond.

Other Perspectives
Finally, here are links to other discussions of data center trends for 2016, authored by people with job titles and view points that are different from mine:

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