May 5, 2015
Don’t know how many of you saw this, but IDC just published a report saying that the need for data center capacity will grow by 750 percent over the next four years. Since we’re in the data center business here at Compass, we’re positively giddy with excitement and are currently adding more phone lines to handle the expected increase in call volume. Let’s be honest with ourselves, you don’t see growth rates like that for pretty much anything, and that includes those home shopping channels that will double your order for free “if you act now”. I think we all know how compelling those are. I myself have fallen victim to their allure in my efforts to expand my chamois collection. Anyway, the major driver of this geometric increase in the need for more data center space, according to IDC, is the continued growth of the Internet of Things (IOT). I couldn’t agree more, but I think we’ll see additional ramifications from the IOT’s attempt to redefine ubiquity that will impact all of us.
For those of you out there excited about the prospect of being able to track the location of your TV’s remote control, or the amount of beer you have left in the refrigerator, I urge you to think a little bigger—although both of these capabilities are pretty darn exciting.
First, data centers themselves are going to have to change. In the realm of the IOT, billions of small packets of information from billions of devices will have to be processed. Today, that same scenario is know as a Denial of Service (DOS) attack and brings fat pipe networks down to a trickle of bits. —Additionally, with IOT, value in most cases is only derived from near real-time processiong on a continuous basis for the information. For example, theft prevention in a retail store only works in real-time, otherwise it is called “forensics” by the police. To hit a bit closer to home, if your beer inventory isn’t quickly updated, your wife could slip in and grab the last one thereby leaving you with a bowl of pretzels in your lap, the big game on TV, drinking a can of Fresca—that stuff is nasty. Incidents like this can lead to disturbances in domestic tranquility, and their avoidance is one of the IOT’s major benefits. Obviously, this is really going to put the “critical” in “mission critical” and require that facilities be built to ensure uptime, thereby making concurrent reliability a de facto requirement in most cases.
On the other end of the spectrum is the need to keep information as close to the end user as possible due to the need for a low latency, positive user experience. In a world where your 11-year old is savvy enough to look for another content source if they see an hourglass icon, housing compute and storage in a single location with a higher latency connection isn’t going to get the job done. You see the huge packet, high quality of service for items like the latest Avengers movie download is a completely different problem to solve on the network versus the IOT of billions of tiny packets from billions of devices. The one thing that is true for both IOT and rich contect, is that the network gets creamed in either case. It’s kind of like being a Texas Ranger fan – you lose not only the pitching staff to injury, but also 4 of your top 5 batters.
What this network tsunami creates is the need for the stratification of the data center. The role of the mega site will become serving as a central applications processing point working in concert with smaller regional (edge) and local data centers to reduce latency to levels unobtainable today. While mega facilities won’t go away (as a matter of fact, they will continue to grow), the ripple effect of these changes will be seen throughout the data center industry with implications for data centers, networks, and the companies that provide servers, storage, and management software amongst others.
Perhaps the best thing of all about the IOT and instantaneous rich content is that is actually having a positive impact on the industry. All businesses go through periods where some new innovation starts at one end of the hype machine only to emerge as the technology previously known as the “next big thing”, and the data center industry is no different. For example, how many articles have you seen lately asking if it’s time to put a fork in Big Data or DCIM? The double headed network monster of IOT and instantaneous rich content, however, appears to be the real deal since, while concepts like Software Defined Data Centers may be a little esoteric side, everyone wants to know not only where the clicker is but when one watches the movie that it streams quickly and without any blips. As members of the data center community, I think we can all agree that is a very good thing indeed.