Gartner’s world class data center conference was held once again during the first week of December at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. And once again it exceeded everyone’s imagination, drawing over 2,500 attendees with over 40% participating for the first time. Over the last several years, Gartner has expanded the “Granddaddy” of all data center conferences to include IT infrastructure and operations management (or I&O) content along with the historical data center infrastructure information that the conference started with many years ago.

The conference offered “cutting edge” data center infrastructure content reporting on the transition of the colocation data center industry from the wholesale real estate leasing and retail IT managed services business of just five years ago to the hybrid, private, and public multi-cloud operations of today. Other new and exciting concepts presented to the data center infrastructure attendees included edge computing solutions to support the Internet of Things (IoT) and wireless communications, as well as the projected effects of artificial intelligence and Big Data on the future of data center infrastructure and operations.

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It is fair to say that attendees left the conference with a clear understating of how change in the world of IT continues to accelerate and how it will drag data center infrastructure and operations along with it. Built upon forward-thinking infrastructure and operations research, the new “Gartner IT Infrastructure, Operations Management & Data Center Conference” now provides IT and data center professionals with “hands-on” and “how-to” advice across a breadth of I&O topics unavailable at any other event.

According to David Cappuccio, VP and distinguished analyst and chief of research for the infrastructure teams within Gartner, “Legacy infrastructure and operations (I&O) practices and traditional data center architectures are not sufficient to meet the demands of digital business. Digital transformation requires IT agility and velocity that outstrips classical architectures and practices. In 2018, IT will be increasingly tasked with supporting complex, distributed applications using new technologies that are spread across systems in multiple locations, including on-premises data centers, and remote or edge environments, as well as the public cloud and hosting providers. All I&O leaders should be aware of these key technologies and trends and be prepared to support digital transformation.”

As he does every year, Cappuccio presented 10 pressing data center issues at the conference that are valuable to everyone that operates a data center. However, unlike previous years, they are not necessarily the top 10 technologies, or the hottest trends in IT in data centers, but rather the 10 trends that he feels will have an impact on infrastructure and operations teams over the next few years as the new digital era comes upon us. Some are happening already and some are just beginning, but each will have an impact on how IT operates, plans, enhances internal skill sets, and supports the business. Cappuccio has divided these 10 issues into strategic, tactical, and operational categories and presents several recommendations about how to develop and incorporate solutions into your corporate IT I&O plans.



Trend 1: Geo planning. Outside factors including the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), geo specific workloads, and global and regional network access are driving IT to spend more time on geo planning as part of their longer-term strategies. The long-term objective is not to own a global infrastructure, but to build the infrastructure needed to support the business via partners as well as leveraging an organization’s partner’s infrastructure to help support initiatives such as multiple network connections and infrastructure design and support. The new reality is that with the right partner organizations, IT can develop a global and fluid infrastructure that is agile and adaptable to rapidly changing business needs.

Trend 2: The intelligent edge. Many digital business projects create data that can be processed more efficiently when the computing power is close to the thing or person generating it. Edge computing solutions address this need for localized computing power. For example, in the context of IoT, the sources of data generation are usually things with sensors or embedded devices. The intelligent edge serves as the decentralized extension of the campus networks, cellular networks, data center networks, or the cloud.

Organizations that have embarked on a digital business journey have realized that a more decentralized approach is required to address digital business infrastructure requirements. As the volume and velocity of data increases, so too does the inefficiency of streaming all this information back to a cloud or data center for processing.

Trend 3: Intent-based networking (IBNS). Gartner predicts that by 2020, more than 1,000 large enterprises will use intent-based networking systems in production, up from less than 50 today. Intent-based networking is not a product or a market. Instead, it is a piece of networking software that helps to plan, design, implement, and operate networks that can improve network availability and agility, which becomes increasingly important as organizations transition towards digital business.

With IBNS, rather than explicitly defining to the network what needs to be done, the software translates the business intent to determine the “correctness” of the network configuration before deployment. The system then is continuously comparing the actual and desired state of the running network. As a result, the IBNS can automatically take corrective actions if the state of the network falls out of alignment with the original intent.



Trend 4: Application programming interface (APIs) – integration economy. A digital business is supported by technology platforms in five areas: information systems, customer experience, data and analytics, the IoT, and ecosystems. The ecosystems technology platform supports the creation of and connection to external ecosystems, marketplaces, and communities. API management enables the digital platform to function. APIs are also the basis of the integration of the other four areas, with each other and within the individual platforms themselves.

Organizations should design APIs from the “outside in,” based on ecosystem requirements, not “inside out,” based on existing applications or technology infrastructure. “Ensure that your organization takes an ‘API first’ approach, designing APIs based on the requirements of your organization’s ecosystem,” says Cappuccio. “APIs designed in this way can then be mapped to internal technology infrastructure. This approach is more effective than simply generating APIs based on existing infrastructure and data models.”

Trend 5: Reputation and digital experience. There are two interlinked trends impacting business today that have nothing to do with IT infrastructure, but everything to do with infrastructure design. Digital experience management (DEM) is the impact of presenting the right digital experience to customers. The experience could be mobile or web-based, and should be always available, continually improving, and perform quickly and consistently.

If any of these tenants are lacking, customer satisfaction is in peril, and if customer satisfaction is in peril, especially in today’s social media savvy world, corporate reputation could quickly be damaged. Designing infrastructures that ensure the optimal digital experience is no longer a value-add, but a baseline requirement for infrastructure planners.

Trend 6: Beyond traditional IT – new realities. Business units are demanding agility in opening new markets, taking on emerging competitors, bringing in new suppliers, and creating innovative ways of interacting with customers. Over 30% of current IT spend is not part of the IT budget. However, overall responsibility for supporting these new initiatives, once they are tested and stabilized, will reside within the traditional IT organization. Managing those new providers, managing workflows, and managing new types of assets in this hybrid environment, regardless of where they are located, will become crucial to IT’s success.



Trend 7: Data Center as a Service (DCaaS) as a strategy. In a perfect world, at least from the perspective of many business leaders, IT and the data center would be essentially a very agile provider of service outcomes, rather than the owner of the infrastructure. To do this, organizations are creating a DCaaS model, where the role of IT and the data center is to deliver the right service, at the right place, from the right provider, at the right price.

“Deciding to embrace a DCaaS model is the easy part, and getting there is not as difficult as one would imagine. Making key short-term decisions can lead to a long-term strategy that incorporates the best of ‘as a service’ and the cloud, without compromising IT’s overall goals to both protect and enable the business,” says Cappuccio. “In this manner, IT can enable the use of cloud services across the business, but with a focus on picking ‘the right service, at the right time, from the right provider, at the right price’ and in such a way that underlying IT service and support does not get compromised.”

Trend 8: Protected cloud adoption. For many enterprises, the journey to the cloud is a slow, controlled process. Colocation and hosting providers have established private or shared clouds on their premises to provide customers some basic cloud services, enabling controlled migrations, staff skills training, and a “safe” cloud environment as a stepping stone to increased cloud adoption in the future. As customers get comfortable with these services and costs, increased migrations to external providers are enabled via interconnect services once comfort levels with staff skills are stronger. Using this partner ecosystem to enable an agile infrastructure is a rapidly emerging trend.

Trend 9: Capacity optimization – everywhere. Organizations need to focus on optimizing capacity and guard against stranded capacity — things that are paid for, but not really using. This issue can be found both in existing on premises data centers and in the cloud. A change in culture is needed to fix this problem. Organizations must learn to focus not just on uptime and availability, but also on capacity, utilization, and density. Doing so can extend the life of an existing data center and reduce operating expenditures from cloud providers.

Trend 10: Extended infrastructure management. The data center as the sole source of IT infrastructure has given way to a hybrid of on-premises, colocation, hosting, and public and private cloud solutions. These elements are being combined with a focus on providing business-enabling services and outcomes, rather than a focus on physical infrastructure. Enterprises must apply a future-looking, enterprise-wide “steady hand” to IT strategy and planning, and apply appropriate guardrails, or face the possibility of losing relevance, governance, and enterprise agility. They must stop trying to control the deployment of solutions and instead serve to coordinate, integrate, and broker them.



Considering these 10 urgent issues together, Cappuccio offers the following philosophies and high level recommendations to prepare for the developing digital era:

  • Transform IT from a provider of iron to a provider of services

  • Build an infrastructure delivery strategy focused on business requirements

  • The IT we know is over — extended IT is the new normal

  • Intent based networks — begin the learning process now

  • Plan for the unknown — be prepared for business driven changes

  • IT is no longer a cost center — it is a revenue enabler

Gartner’s Top 2018 Trends Impacting Data Center Infrastructure & Operations

FIGURE 1. Gartner’s David Cappuccio has divided these 10 issues into strategic, tactical, and operational categories.

Best of luck to your data center and IT I&O teams across the world as you face the accelerating pace of “digital” change. You can find additional information about Cappuccio’s findings on Gartner’s website at



In May of 2018, the Critical Facilities RoundTable (CFRT) plans to meet at the Nautilus data center at Mare Island in the San Francisco Bay to discuss and witness the benefits of the various methods of free cooling available in the environment. The CFRT is a non-profit organization based in Silicon Valley that is dedicated to the discussion and resolution of industry issues regarding mission-critical facilities, their engineering and design, and their maintenance. We provide an open forum for our members and their guests to share information and to learn about new mission-critical technologies, with the intention of helping our members improve in technical expertise and to develop solutions for the challenges of their day-to-day critical facilities operations. For more information, please visit our website at or contact us at 415-748-0515.

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