The data center industry has been experiencing change for quite some time, but the past couple of years have been exceptional, mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At first, it may have seemed like all the changes were taking place to make short-term adjustments in order to accommodate stay-home orders, but that's not the case anymore. It all feels pretty permanent — the increase in remote school and work, making business calls on Zoom instead of the phone, using an app for everything — there's even a dating app for cows now ...  

So, I decided to ask a few of Mission Critical's advisory board members their thoughts on some of the trending topics we’re covering in this issue.

When it comes to total cost of ownership (TCO), there’s a lot to consider.

“The telecommunications component of total cost of ownership is becoming increasingly visible as companies are evaluating the role software-defined networks [SDNs], like Megaport and PacketFabric, and the cloud direct-connect circuits will play in overall spending,” said Kirk Killian, president of Partners National Mission Critical Facilities. “The interconnection-focused colo providers promote that their telecom expense savings (plus network performance enhancements) partially offset the higher occupancy costs traditionally commanded by this colo industry subset.  It seems to be working — some enterprises are increasing the total size of deployments with the more expensive interconnection colo providers.  At the same time, the presence of SDNs at many large colocation campuses is improving the overall value proposition at them compared with the interconnection-focused colo facilities.”

The need for so many colo campuses comes down to one simple fact — almost everything is connected to a data center in some way.

”There is an ever-growing list of physical device and formerly ordinary objects that are now able to collect and exchange data,” said John Fluecke, practice area director and project manager for Syska Hennessy. “Smart home devices, such as doorbells, thermostats, and light fixtures, are now connected.  This now also includes commercial, industrial, and municipal process controls and applications.   The growth of connected devices has been explosive over the last few years and will place increased demand at the edge of networking.”

And, as we all know, the labor shortage has been an issue for a while. Wayne Pacheco, power systems product support manager at Wheeler machinery Co., talks about the importance of cultivating a workforce that enables employees to thrive in order to turn this around.

“Have you ever tried to steer a cruise ship?" he asked. "It’s a lot like changing the culture in your organization, it requires lots of room, and feedback from many devices and instruments to ensure you remain on course,” he said. “A positive workforce culture starts with company management and doesn’t happen on accident; it requires purposeful effort.  Training is another aspect that cannot be overlooked, since employees in general want to learn and improve their skill level.  Having a documented training plan for employees results in employee satisfaction and also adds to longevity.  Developing your workforce will be challenging without a good work environment, and managers need to realize culture plus training equal success.”

Of course, a lot more happened this year, and the list of trending topics is too long to cover in its entirety. But, this is just one part of the 2021 wrap-up. Check out Mission Critical's website for to see more of what industry experts expect to see in 2022 and beyond.