According to BGR, the average U.S. Internet connection speed has tripled since 2011. That’s clearly great news for the vast majority of Americans who regularly surf the web at home, at the office, and on the go.
It’s not just the deployment of cutting-edge consumer technologies and the relentless (and ever more improbable) advance of Moore’s Law. Much of the seemingly miraculous growth in U.S. connection speeds — which, it must be said, remain slower than in most other advanced nations — is attributable to the proliferation of increasingly sophisticated data centers throughout North America.
Sure as night follows day, the data center industry is set for yet more exhilarating innovations in 2017. Here’s a look at five trends that could shape consumer and business computing in the months to come.
- Smarter Data Center Environments
It’s only fitting that data center operators are looking for new ways to collect and interpret, well, data. New data centers include a raft of connected sensors that measure everything from temperature and barometric pressure to humidity and vibration. Existing data centers are being retrofitted at a breakneck pace to incorporate such sensors. With more real-time data than ever at their disposal, operators can keep their fingers on the pulse of their data centers — and address potential problems before they cause harm — like never before.
- Another Spike in Data Center Acquisitions
The data center industry saw a spike in acquisition activity in the early 2010s, and after a brief lull, acquisitions appear to be in vogue yet again.
Case in “point” is St. Louis-based TierPoint, a growing data center operator helmed by industry veteran Jerry Kent and backed by private equity investors including Gerry Cardinale’s RedBird Capital. Since 2010, TierPoint has acquired 11 companies and opened or expanded nearly 40 data centers, mostly in tier two U.S. markets such as Dallas, Seattle, Boston, and Baltimore. With 2016 sales at roughly $400 million and several new projects coming online, TierPoint is clear proof that the business community is bullish on data centers.
- Colocation Accelerates
We don’t need to rehash the benefits of colocation here. It’s much more important to underscore just how crucial colocation is for companies seeking an edge over the competition. In 2017, low-margin firms that don’t colocate are likely to find themselves at a competitive — and possibly fatal — disadvantage.
- New Roles for Automation
Ironically, data centers have long been hands-on environments. But that’s finally changing thanks to new software and infrastructure innovations that free technicians from the drudgery of rote, repetitive tasks. As in high-tech manufacturing facilities across the world, the data center technicians of the future are likely to focus less on process and more on outcomes.
- Dispersed Computing Power.
Even as large-scale data centers proliferate, processing power is increasingly moving to “edge” environments: cell towers, substations, decentralized server nodes, even home servers. This is a huge boon for consumers and businesses chasing processing speed and low latencies.
What’s Next for Data Centers?
It’s fun to daydream about what a time traveler from some distant point in the past would do if suddenly deposited in the modern world. Someone from 150 years ago would have no idea what to make of the automobile or telephone. Someone from 50 years ago wouldn’t have the faintest idea what to make of a PC. And someone from 35 years ago would look askance at the simplest cell phone.
Things are changing even faster in the data realm. A visitor from the turn of the millennium would intuitively understand the concept of the data center, but the actual product — not to mention the technologies driving the cutting edge — would be virtually unrecognizable to him or her.
It’s an exciting time, if slightly disorienting for the set-in-their-ways. Right now, the only question that really matters is: can you keep up?