The Future of Data Centers in 2021 and Beyond

December 1, 2020

For data centers to be better hubs of information and innovation, everything trends toward increasing the speed, capacity and reliability of data to power business operations through the growing Internet of Things. What does the future of data center technology look like? We anticipate much of future data center adaptations will involve the maximization of uptime, energy efficiency and safety. Remote operation, strategic data center locations and AI will come to the forefront.

Human-Free Data Centers of the Future

Imagine a large, darkened server room where nobody has entered that part of the building for days, sometimes weeks. Is this a scenario where equipment goes to waste? Actually, the future of data centers is one where humans have little involvement after initial construction and installation.

Lights out or “dark” data centers refer to primarily remote facilities that don’t need regular access from workers. These layouts have been in discussion throughout the last decade for their potential energy savings. That’s because these climate-controlled environments will rarely be disrupted by technicians coming and going through doors. Because of the global pandemic’s impacts on social distancing, remote management of the data center is now a priority for safety purposes alongside smarter resource allocation.

Data Center Management as a Service (DMaaS) grants cloud-based remote control of certain connected equipment and could someday expand to the entire site. We could see just a few specialists effectively managing thousands of servers with only occasional or emergency entry to the server room itself. Lights out data centers will ultimately lessen instances of human error and tampering and curb unplanned downtime.

What About Locations and Tax Incentives?

Where will the data centers of tomorrow be built? Many of today’s most active data centers were constructed near dense fiber-optic networks on account of speed and capacity, and the demand for low-latency solutions will never change.

Power needs and optimizing energy use are also driving factors of data center placement. Within the past decade, companies have been choosing the Nordic region, with cooler year-round temperatures, very little seismic activity and plentiful renewable energy sources like wind and hydropower. Physical security and imperviousness to natural events have prompted novel designs for data protection like inside nuclear bunkers and beneath mountains.

Could we also start to see data centers brought offshore to take advantage of the open waters? Either floating or submerged in water, data centers can have ample cooling and power potential from ocean current energy.

Still, the future has to settle who owns and oversees the data, based on its geographic location. Since 2018, Apple invested $1 billion to open a data center in the southwest China province of Guizhou, partly to deliver services faster and to comply with local laws. Apple’s data center gives authorities in China quicker access to citizen information stored in the cloud. In recent years, Sweden and France have offered electrical tax cuts and exemptions, respectively, lowering operating costs for new data centers in the hopes of attracting tech talent and economic growth.

Future Data Centers Will Use All Available Space — But Not for Us

Without humans walking in the data center aisles, more capacity can be used for the equipment. Server rooms can be designed with racks and power equipment as close as optimal airflow allows. In addition to a smaller footprint, the units can be built higher — out-of-reach for human workers, but for machines to feel at home.

These facilities will need dextrous and reliable robots to perform manual handling and positioning of IT equipment. Given the work involving electrical components, heavy lifting and repetitive tasks, machines seem well-suited for automated infrastructure installation and replacement.

Artificial Intelligence’s Involvement in Data Center Evolution

A truly automated and self-sustaining data center through AI will anticipate and respond proactively to needs with maintenance, cybersecurity and environment control. Engineers and developers will keep refining software (like remote-capable DCIM) and robotics that can hot-swap servers, adjust cooling temperatures automatically and scale energy usage based on real-time demand.  In turn, this will optimize facilities for the lowest server-to-admin ratios.

Is Your IT Infrastructure Ready? DataSpan Can Help

At DataSpan, we provide the products and expertise needed to prepare for the next generation of data centers and computing technology. We work closely with our partners and share fully scalable and customizable solutions. Whether your plans involve designing a sophisticated data center in your building, deploying edge computing or maintaining hybrid IT with the cloud, our vendor-agnostic consulting will help you evolve in an information-dependent future.

Get in touch online or locate your DataSpan representative today.