Over the last two years, the general public has witnessed unprecedented technology transformations related to how we work, play, and communicate. As expected for 2021, the cloud migration that began in 2020 continued to transform businesses and data centers, 5G rollouts accelerated, IoT powered the trend to make nearly everything “smart,” AI went from experimental to essential, and remote work became a way of life for many.
These trends have proven so important to how businesses, communities, and families are adapting to change that they will continue unabated in 2022. In addition, the accelerating adoption of single-mode fiber for faster processing of more data and automated infrastructure management (AIM) for increased system interoperability, will have a significant impact on data centers.
Here’s how these trends are expected to evolve.
Scalability and cost continue to drive companies to the cloud. In late 2021, HPE reported year-over-year (YoY) orders for its GreenLake cloud platform increased 46%, and AWS reported YoY growth of around 40%. Renting infrastructure and scaling it within days — instead of waiting for a multiyear build — is just too compelling. Both public and private cloud infrastructure will grow. Large enterprises will use a hybrid model, while smaller companies will use public cloud alone.
The only real inhibitor of this growth is concern around data security and compliance restrictions, such as privacy and compliance regulations that require protecting individual health care information or keeping some data within a country or on-premises.
To satisfy both business and consumer demands, service providers and private companies will continue evaluating the most efficient and cost-effective ways to build out 5G capabilities and deliver more data faster. Because this data is increasingly latency sensitive, expect an acceleration in the migration from large core, small edge data center architectures to smaller core, larger edge architectures.
Starting in 2022, we will also see an increase in the buildout of private 5G with local radios in the cloud. This data-intensive, latency-sensitive application will further drive growth in data centers and edge data centers. This will be a multiyear trend as businesses get more access to 5G spectrum from carriers.
According to Statista, the number of IoT devices worldwide will reach more than 25.4 billion in 2030, tripling from the 8.74 billion devices in 2020. However, this is still just the beginning, as businesses are starting to understand how they can optimize operations, such as shipping and logistics, by collecting and analyzing data from sensors. Once again, the impact on data centers will be enormous, as all that data needs to be stored and processed somewhere, which is increasingly in the cloud.
Consider the number of data points required for a package tracking application: where a package originated, where it is, where it’s going, estimated time of arrival, environmental conditions (including temperature, humidity, altitude, pressure, etc.), delivery company, driver, vehicle status and history, etc. Now, multiply the data for one package by hundreds of thousands or even millions of packages.
As with many “smart” applications — autonomous vehicles, intelligent buildings, health care monitoring, etc. — much of the data is time-sensitive, which means processing must occur at closer to the end user, further fueling the growth of edge data centers. IoT-powered video applications for security monitoring, data mining, safety, and even entertainment are all contributing to this demand.
In the past few years, most companies were still figuring out their AI strategy. In 2022, AI is essential to understanding all the data companies are collecting – big data analytics just can’t be done manually. From facial recognition and contact tracing to supply chain and logistics analytics, AI is the key to process optimization and business competitiveness.
Over the next year, building AI capabilities and capacity will be a major initiative for most enterprises, even as we begin a long-term trend toward increased reliance on AR. While AR will initially be adopted for gaming and personal interaction, it will begin to play an increasing business role in marketing, sales, training, and other service applications. For example, AR is already used by field technicians to connect with a call center via a smartphone to get answers to questions related to their installations and repairs.
Remote work was a trend before the pandemic, and, for vast numbers of workers and companies, it will become the standard way of doing business. It offers a better work-life balance for employees as well as lower operating costs and increased productivity for employers. Of course, this trend will have a significant impact on the need for high-speed internet access to the home to support videoconferencing, not just for work, but also for remote learning and entertainment. Once again data center storage and performance requirements must increase to support high-quality video streaming, recording, and storage.
The acceleration of single-mode fiber adoption utilizing 400 Gbps or 800 Gbps networks is happening faster than expected as a result of the trends noted above. While multimode fiber remains popular, the industry is seeing more single-mode fiber deployed, particularly in cloud and hyperscale data centers.
AIM is becoming a go-to solution for increasingly complex data infrastructures. AIM enables IT to manage fiber array connectivity, polarity, and MPO port configurations for spine-leaf architecture. It enables managers of smart buildings to support IP convergence, track huge numbers of new devices, and monitor PoE distribution over the structured cabling systems to ensure proper operation. And across smart campuses, AIM consolidates all documentation for outside and inside plant cabling into a single source of truth while also tracking individual fiber strand connectivity throughout the campus using geolocation.
As network activity moves to the edge, AIM will also enable remote monitoring and administration for lights-out edge data centers — including the use of AR glasses or digital twins to manage and optimize a physical environment. Look for AIM to become more accessible over the coming year via cloud-based solutions and subscription-based service models.
The Big Picture
The acceleration of digital transformation caused by the pandemic will continue for at least the next couple of years. Rapid and often continuous data center retooling is expected as businesses rely on and respond to the above trends to meet their evolving customer, employee, and partner needs.