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Are data centre organisations VR-ready for the Olympics?

Virtual reality (VR) has dominated the technology sector in 2016. Leading companies including Sony, Google, and Samsung have all launched their versions of the VR headset, vying for the top spot amongst consumers and organisations alike.

This healthy competition, matched with the ever-growing developments in the technology, will in no doubt accelerate VR into commercial popularity. Numbers further back this notion. Research from TrendsForce predicts that the VR market will skyrocket to $70bn by 2020, and a recent report from Forrester supports this number by estimating that almost 52 million VR headsets will be in use by 2020 – and that’s just in the US alone.

Initially, it has been the gaming industry benefiting most from the rise in VR, but as the technology evolves so will the sectors it moves into, with the likes of healthcare and automotive very much in line for the future. The ability for VR technology to immerse users in a virtualised world offers levels of simulation that have not been experienced before. The recognition of VR’s qualities has now even spread to the 2016 Olympics, where for the first time ever, some events will be streamed live in VR. Users will be able to throw themselves into the heart of the action, whether that’s running alongside Usain Bolt in the 100m or leaping hurdles with Jessica Ennis-Hill. The precedent that this could set, if used correctly, could alter the landscape in the way sport and entertainment are presented and consumed, pushing VR deeper into the mainstream.

Despite this potential, however, VR cannot act alone. Ultimately, VR must be supported by an infrastructure of technologies that can accelerate its growth among users and organisations alike. Any poor user-experience that may be suffered during the Olympics could cause VR implementation in other sporting events to grind to a halt.

Yet a silent partner that is steadily offering its hand of support is the data centre. Data centres have already established their credibility in propelling technologies into commercial deployment, such as IoT, streaming services, online gaming and high-performance computing, and it is this success which suggests VR can make the same leap. In order for data centres to effectively support VR technology, data centre operators must be vigilant for the following aspects.

Avoiding complacency

While data centres have been successful in supporting a range of technologies, they must avoid the risk of becoming complacent to the requirements of VR. The cross-industry appeal of VR will mean that, as more sectors embrace the technology, the demands placed on it will require data centres to ensure they are able to provide high-quality services. Connectivity, accessibility and essential data storage solutions are all key aspects that that data centres must prioritise and guarantee. Legacy hardware that was once suitable for smaller operations is unable to effectively support the modern densities and configurations of the latest technology, and infrastructure upgrades will become a necessity for data centre operators.

Additionally, for consumers to enjoy a seamless and unhindered experience, data centres must have dedicated fibre connections to key Internet Exchanges, as well as factoring contingency models to prevent possible network outages or connectivity issues that may occur, otherwise broadcasters of the Games and data centre operators could both incur significant financial costs. With the sheer scale of the Olympics and the increased risk of potential data breaches, data centres will be required to ensure that additional layers of security via the implementation of back-up structures and physical facility security are present on-site.

Future-proofing sites and analysing data

As VR is still very much in its infancy, there is still a period of maturation that the technology will need to undergo in order to satisfy the demands placed on it. This period also provides an opportune moment for data centres to future-proof their sites to ensure that the infrastructure in place is adequate, and if necessary, make the appropriate upgrades.

However, in order to get a realistic indication of data flows and performance reporting, data centre operators can prepare by pressure testing their data centres under true-to-life simulations that are likely to be experienced during The Games. This will generate a wealth of data and help analyse fluctuating consumer demand patterns, as well as any possible connectivity or security issues.

With this data available and the development of VR technology, it is very likely the data centre will play a key role in the smooth and successful deployment of VR for both the present and future.

Greg McCulloch, CEO of Aegis Data

Image source: Shutterstock/Wayne0216