The World According to ... Vertiv
As the COVID-19 pandemic wears on, the global data centre industry continues to experience unprecedented demand. As the hyperscale segment of the market continues to boom, the edge is also expanding, as technologies like 5G, AI and IoT continue to push heavier computational workloads farther away from the network core.
With the industry undergoing a period of rapid evolution, we've gathered together expert insight and commentary from the executive team at global data centre leader Vertiv, to share their unique predictions for the year ahead.
Digitalisation on Fast-Forward
COVID-19 will have a lasting effect on the workforce and the IT ecosystem supporting the new work-from-home model. Vertiv experts expect the pandemic-motivated investment in IT infrastructure to continue and expand, enabling more secure, reliable, and efficient remote work capabilities. Remote visibility and management will become paramount to the success of these work-from-home models. Already remote service capabilities have emerged to minimise the need for on-site service calls, and those practices are likely to continue long after the pandemic. Any cautious steps taken early in the crisis will be accelerated as the pandemic pushes into 2021 and organisations accept these changes not as a temporary detour, but rather a permanent adjustment to the way we work and do business. Over time, what is done in-person versus remotely will change, and the change will be driven by customers looking to minimise their on-site presence. That places a premium on connectivity, remote monitoring, data analytics, and even artificial intelligence to make decisions.
“Recovery requires a change in mindset for most organisations,” said John-David Lovelock, distinguished research vice president at Gartner, in a recent statement. “There is no bouncing back. There needs to be a reset focused on moving forward.”
Bringing Large Data Centre Capabilities to Small Spaces and the Edge
Today’s edge is more critical and more complex, functionally an extension of the data centre rather than the glorified IT closet of the past. Cost and complexity have prevented implementation of data centre best practices in these spaces, but that is changing. Vertiv’s experts anticipate a continued focus on bringing hyperscale and enterprise-level capabilities to these edge sites. This includes greater intelligence and control, an increased emphasis on availability and thermal management, and more attention to energy efficiency across systems.
“Wherever there is a high density of data processing, there will be a demand for edge computing. That demand, and scale, will necessitate more resilient and intelligent edge infrastructure,” said Giordano Albertazzi, president of Vertiv in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). “We are seeing expansion of the edge in many countries and that will eventually extend to emerging markets. Edge deployments are also closely aligned to other key trends such as 5G and environmental sustainability, and the integration of edge sites with energy grids can support the transition towards renewables.”
The 5G Conversation Turns to Energy Consumption and Efficiency
In this early stage of 5G planning and launches, the discussion has rightly focused on the ultimate benefits of the technology – increased bandwidth and reduced latency – and the applications it will enable. But, as many countries begin their 5G rollouts in 2021, and the early adopters start to drive breadth and scale, the focus will shift to the significant energy consumption increases brought on by 5G and strategies to deploy more efficiently and effectively. The network densification necessary to fully realise the promise of 5G unavoidably adds to the increased energy demands – estimated to be 3.5x more than 4G. The coming year will see greater focus on managing that significant increase in energy consumption by exploring more efficient products and practices.
Sustainability Comes to the Forefront
5G is one piece of a broader sustainability story. As the proliferation of data centres continues and even accelerates, especially in the hyperscale space, those cloud and colocation providers are facing increased scrutiny for their energy and water usage. The amplification of the climate change conversation and shifting political winds in the United States and globally will only add to the focus on the data centre industry, which accounts for approximately . The coming year will see a wave of innovation focused on energy efficiency across the data centre ecosystem. The benefits for data centre operators are clear, starting with cost reduction, compliance with existing and anticipated regulations, and the goodwill that comes with establishing a leadership position in the global sustainability movement. Look for important innovations across the data centre infrastructure space and especially in the area of thermal management.
Unlocking the next chapter of the digital revolution
As the world retreated to a hybrid world in 2020, our reliance on technology took the spotlight. But it was the jazzy new social and video calling platforms that took the encore. Behind the scenes, our servers worked overtime, keeping us connected and maintaining the drumbeat of always-on newly digital services. Let’s take a moment to pay our respect to the unsung technology heroes of the pandemic – the often-forgotten IT infrastructure keeping us connected come what may. After all, as we look ahead to more resilient futures, they will be playing a central role.
Servers could be likened to our plumbing – vital to well-functioning homes but rarely top of mind so long as it is functioning. Never seen, rarely heard – our servers do all the graft with little praise. But it is essential to reflect on the incremental advances in GPU and CPU power, which have paved the way for new workloads that previously were not possible. Chatbots and native language processing that provide essential customer touchpoints for businesses across the retail and banking sectors rely on powerful servers. They also keep businesses competitive and customers happy in an always-on world.
Serving workplace transformation
But, as businesses grappled with pandemic disruptions, the focus was largely on adopting connected devices – and awe at the rapid increase in the datasphere. As they reined in their budgets and attempted to do more with less, one aspect was perhaps overlooked—those hard working servers.
When it came to building resilience into a newly remote workforce, the initial concern was focused on the device endpoints – keeping employees productive. Many companies did not initially consider whether they had the server infrastructure to enable the entire workforce to log in remotely at the same time. As a result, many experienced a plethora of teething problems: virtual office crashes, long waits to get on servers, and sluggish internet connectivity and application performance, often rendering the shiny new PC frustrating and useless.
Most businesses only had a few outward-facing servers that could authenticate remote workers – a vital gateway as the vector for cyber hacks and attacks increased exponentially. That’s not to mention the fact that many business applications simply weren’t designed to work with the latency required for people working from home. What businesses discovered at that moment was that their plumbing was out of date.
Business and IT leaders quickly realised that to stay ahead of the curve in the hybrid working world, a renewed focus on building agile, adaptable, and flexible IT infrastructures was critical. More importantly, it accelerated the inevitable digital transformation that would keep them competitive in a data-driven economy. It is now abundantly clear to businesses that they need IT infrastructure to meet the demands of diverse workloads – derive intelligent insights from data, deploy applications effectively, and enhance data management and security.
Ripe for a digital revolution
Unsurprisingly, IDC noted that there was an increase in purchases of server infrastructure to support changing workloads. However, it also forecasts this uptick will be sustainable and last beyond the pandemic. As the economy begins to reopen, business leaders are looking ahead. IT will continue to play a crucial role in 2021 and beyond – and we have already set the foundations for the digital revolution with next-generation servers.
As we enter the zettabyte era, new innovative technologies are coming on stream, with 5G turbocharging IoT and putting edge computing to work. Exciting new services improved day-to-day efficiencies, and the transformation of our digital society will be underpinned by resilient IT infrastructures. By embracing the technological innovations of our next-generation servers, businesses keep pace with the coming data deluge.
The next generation of server architecture promises more power with less heat, thanks to improved, directed airflow, and direct liquid cooling, resulting in reduced operational costs and environmental impact. As we rebuild post-pandemic, manufacturers and customers alike strive to achieve ever more challenging sustainability goals. With this in mind, a focus on environmentally responsible design is imperative for the servers of tomorrow - uniquely designed chassis for adaptive cooling and more efficient power consumption will be critical, improving energy efficiency generation over generation.
The most notable evolution is the configuration of these next-gen servers around more specific organisational needs. Unlike clunky and often unstable legacy infrastructure, the infrastructure of tomorrow will be sturdier and more modular. The next iteration is streamlined, and in this modular form, can be more easily tailored to business needs. This equates to essential cost savings as businesses only pay for what they use.
Resolving the problem of the future, today
Tomorrow's IT challenges will focus on response times and latency as Edge and 5G technologies go mainstream. As businesses develop new and innovative services that utilise supercharged connectivity and real-time analytics, staying on top of these challenges will give them a competitive edge. For example, in the world of retail, automation will power new virtual security guards and even the slightest delay in the data relay could result in financial loss.
Similarly, in the smart cities of tomorrow, the network must be responsive. With city-centre traffic lights controlled by an AI-powered camera that monitors pedestrians, delays in data transfers could cost the life of an elderly pedestrian who has fallen in the road. The stakes are far higher in a 5G-enabled world. As our reliance on technology deepens, the margins for error narrow, placing greater emphasis on the efficiency of those critical underpinning technologies.
Fully enabling the hybrid work model today is just a stepping-stone towards more fluid, tech-enabled lives. A work Zoom call from an automated vehicle on-route to an intelligent transport hub is a highly probable vision of our future. But it requires incredible amounts of compute and seamless data transfers to make it possible. These glossy snapshots need super servers to come to life, making that IT plumbing glisten with next-gen innovation essential. Without exemplary server architecture, we risk future tech advances and the human progression that it enables.