2022 was a crazy year, and I don’t think anyone in this industry would argue that point. If there is someone, please contact me. We’ve seen a shift in company expectations from remote work to “getting back in the office” or at least some hybrid arrangement. Some companies, however, have embraced the remote advantages and plan to keep at least some of their folks working from home. Some companies are offering above-the-norm perks just to get employees. This leads me to my first prediction about the year to come.
1. We will focus on our human supply chain.
Not only will human resources (HR) and legal departments across the industry be tasked with accountability for remote work arrangements, shadow IT, and cybersecurity, finding (stealing) labor will be an all-consuming activity. Industry projections say there will be a need for over 300,000 new people following our current growth trajectories. The “silver wave,” as the great retirement is being dubbed, will increase that number again. This talent demand number is unachievable through poaching talent from other companies. Our industry vies for resources against other industries, too. Gig work will fill some gaps, but overall focus on talent will continue, including gender parity. We simply don’t have enough women (yes, still) in the industry. Young girls don’t see themselves in our jobs without first knowing someone in the industry. I believe that companies will target executives to conduct outreach activities to help the efforts.
Entities that offer tuition reimbursement are going to weigh those costs against growing their own labor forces through internships, veteran outreach, cross-training, upskilling, etc. Most will find it far more cost-effective and a means to rapidly onboard new talent. The cost of one tuition reimbursement could potentially fund training for unlimited people for a month. Certification houses that have long been a staple in our industry as college curricula fallss behind demand should see an uptick, as will companies hiring seasoned professionals for training purposes. Industry veterans can impart a wealth of knowledge learned through experiences, bypassing the need for history to repeat itself.
None of this will be successful without raising awareness of potential jobs and, well, the industry as a whole. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we are still relatively unknown outside our inner circles, which leads to prediction No. 2.
2. The industry must tackle our invisibility
Data center companies, vendors, operators, and the like will begin to cross-pollinate with coding academies, charter schools, high schools, junior colleges, vocational centers, and pretty much anywhere we can attract talent.
Marketing departments will work just as hard with HR, marketing to new talent as they do in their other campaigns. Awareness efforts will gain momentum in growth areas outside our current pockets of visibility, namely data center cities. This year, we saw companies gamify the data center to attract young talent. New projects will emerge along those same lines and will provide a means of introduction to youth. Hopefully, this raised awareness across spectrums will solve some of our diversity problems as a happy byproduct of these outreach efforts. We have the potential to be the most diverse industry, embracing all abilities and perspectives.
3. ESG efforts prove to be difficult
Environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) is a broad term that refers to organizational commitment to sustainability. This score addresses the negative environmental impact of companies and is a massive undertaking — addressing fossil fuels, natural resource management, and pollution levels. As companies try to achieve the best outcomes, they will hit brick walls due to supply chain issues.
I also believe we will see a revised scoring system for ESG that helps to reward effort. Not all goals are yet achievable due to location, fuel sources, issues discussed in Nos. 1 and 2 above, product affordability, strained budgets, etc. Everyone agrees that multibillion-dollar companies don’t necessarily have an advantage despite their pocketbooks — you can’t buy what doesn’t exist. But you can take steps in the right direction and have future plans. There will be some “rethink” and reset expectations along these lines. Some companies will push back on the additional time and costs needed to achieve these goals. In fact, we may see some companies delist to avoid the expenses entirely or simply table their efforts and take their chances with investors until the undertaking is within budgetary means.
4. 2023 may be the year of the edge
Things that are achievable at scale are likewise feasible at a small scale. In some cases, a smaller scale is beneficial in both time and money. FinOps, repatriation, increased data gathering, and manipulations will push some loads out of the cloud. Now, I know many people at hyperscale cloud companies that will argue this point all day long, but, like it or not, it’s happening. Machine-to-machine communications and learning, changes in footprint and resources, and latency can and will be drivers for some decentralization activities. 2023 will be the year that companies take a hard look at their computing assets by application, the environments in which they operate, and their fiscal burdens.
It is no longer a matter of “If you build it, they will come.” Now it is more, “If I can deploy it faster and more efficiently, keep your cloud.” Sustainability goals, cloud egress fees, available talent, bandwidth, supply chain issues, and not sending unnecessary information to the cloud will catalyze edge projects. Healing the digital divide, smart cities, and autonomous agriculture will spur additional implementations. Monetization hasn’t met a good partner for the edge, but company-owned edge is another story. Industry 4.0 will be a driver, too.
5. We will see a new data center ally
Many cities are pushing back on data centers, and “not in my backyard” (NIMBY) attitudes spur new positions for community outreach officers and skilled land buyers well-versed in the unique needs of mission critical buildings. The hyperscalers have done an excellent job of staking out territory, but competition for land and power isn’t going away. As a result, we will see a new wave of incentives and bandwidth come online around the globe. Cities will join with data center companies to attract tenants. Cities will start onboarding technical development officers to include their borders in the industry.
Keeping on top of new capacity and locations around the globe will get a lot more intricate. Resiliency will take advantage of the new fiber, and enhanced bandwidth and applications will utilize resiliency, redundancy, or both to remain active. The choice will be made through analysis of application needs and will include costs; expectations; best effort; and, as noted above, edge potential.
Some Tier III and IV cities will see an uptick in activity. Distributed computing will change the tenant landscape and place additional demands on public and private exchanges. But, through it all, a new Loudoun County will emerge. This shift will help alleviate some of the pressure on resources in Loudoun while bringing more jobs to other areas. Outside of the U.S., I believe we will see new exchange hubs and data centers continue to show up. Companies expanding in those countries/localities will circle back to the first prediction for growing talent.
6. We strive to make the connected world a kind one
And, as that effort continues, the responsibility associated with access and data access explodes. Let’s face it — the internet can be crueler than a fifth-grade playground. Those of us in the industry have a responsibility to make the internet a kinder place. If we are going to grow and flourish, we must stop vilifying people that don’t think the same way as the crowd. I predict social media platforms will have a kindness score, where participants can elevate good stories and kind people. This last one is more of a wish, but I think we can all agree that we can do better. Tech for good is my favorite part of all technology platforms. Let’s amplify that for a change!