What will VR mean for the datacentre community?

The datacentre industry has the potential to be the biggest benefactor from the rise in virtual reality (VR), representing a significant driver for business growth. But to achieve this potential, hosts will need to have confidence that their infrastructure is able to support the highest levels of connectivity, storage, and qualities of service these new, immersive experiences are going to require.

Historically, what have been the challenges facing VR?

Discussions surrounding VR have been circulating for years now. But only now has technology progressed to a suitable level where virtual can become reality. The problems facing VR implementation, aside from poor hardware and software functionality, has been the lack of wireless connectivity speeds and the great deal of data capacity required for VR to be a real game changer. The proliferation of accessible datacentres has provided the storage space and speed of data transference required. Ultimately, poor connectivity would hamper the technology from progressing out of the demo phase and into real life application.

What has changed today and what are the factors driving growth?

Arguably, a big factor in addressing legacy issues has been the growth of high power computing (HPC). HPC is able to adapt to the modern densities and configurations of new technologies to guarantee applications run efficiency, reliably, and quickly. Datacentres will increasingly be required to support HPC capabilities, but in order to do this it is likely to need significant Capex investment to support the necessary technology. With more hardware capacity through HPC, there will be no doubt that VR as well future technologies will be an option for many.

Which sectors are embracing VR?

VR's applicability will continue to grow. The gaming industry will be perhaps the biggest initial player to embrace and utilise the technology. We have already seen interest in the large industry players including Facebook's Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation's Morpheus but this will also extend to other sectors. In engineering, the technology can be used for design walk throughs, media planning, and buying might help envision how ads would look on various mediums, and simulation testing for healthcare and aerospace will also factor into the mix.

What will the growth of VR mean for the datacentre community?

It will most certainly mean an increase in data storage and bandwidth as gamers go online to compete in real time, through the use of VR headsets. For example, think of yourself sitting at home about to watch the latest releases on your virtual reality headset and your service provider goes down, or what if your children are about to switch on their favourite gaming device to compete against someone across the world and it doesn’t work? The back-up capabilities of datacentres will guarantee that service is always on, therefore eradicating any fears traditionally seen with earlier installments of VR prototypes.

To handle the growth in VR, what capabilities will a datacentre need to have in place in order to stand out from its competitors?

Ensuring testing of its back-up capabilities and stress-testing power and connectivity responsiveness in true-to-life simulations. Before VR is deployed commercially, putting datacentre systems in similar, high-pressured situations can help realise what challenges will be faced and implement contingency measures before escalation of the problem.

What challenges are datacentre providers likely to face in light of the growth of VR?

Older legacy facilities will not be able to cope with the higher power requirements needed to support the ongoing growth in VR. There will be a greater focus on power delivery, cooling and at the same time ensuring carbon emissions are kept to a minimum. Infrastructure costs to address these challenges will be incurred, but in the long-run will prove a necessary investment in not only supporting VR implementation, but also the growing influx of new technologies that are constantly introduced.

Will the relationship between cloud providers and datacentre organisations need strengthening to realise the potential of VR tech?

The relationships between datacentre organisations and cloud providers have been growing. With more and more organisations looking to virtualise their IT estates the datacentre is increasingly being relied on to support this. Organisations no longer want to commit significant Capex expenditure upfront and instead the growth and acceptance of cloud is now affording more opportunities for colocation providers as they have the scalability, flexibility and connectivity needed to support more demanding IT estates.

By outsourcing their IT capabilities to the cloud, the initial Capex hit associated with building and managing their own facility is taken away – the third party provider has everything already in place and in doing so you can effectively budget for your usage based on the agreed terms with the provider. In doing so, this removes the risk of fluctuation within your financial forecasting process, brought about by unexpected IT changes or failings, allowing for greater accuracy when budgeting and defining long term expenditure. In doing so, this will allow it to support more macro IT trends like VR.

Greg McCulloch, CEO of Aegis Data

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