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People, privacy and rising temperatures: A year of change and possibilities in the data centre

2016 has been a time of great change in the data centre industry, with many business, regulatory and technical developments set to have a positive and significant effect on how organisations will operate in 2017 and beyond.

Looking back at 2016

In the past year, there have been a number of mergers and acquisitions. Organisations may worry that this consolidation will drive out competition between data centre suppliers, but not only are there still a large number of smaller owner-operators in the market, but economies of scale, variety and availability will undoubtedly provide a spectrum of different services and price points depending on needs.

The key factor for many end-user organisations is connectivity – indeed, there have been many partnerships this year between cloud vendors, allowing direct connectivity between cloud estates. This development cements the future of cloud and enables organisations to ensure rapid access to data, technological agility and fast scalability.

The regulatory environment has been in flux in 2016, with Privacy Shield replacing Safe Harbour. This decision was not an easy or straightforward one. In April, the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party raised a number of concerns around factors such as the right to object and automated decisions made by the Privacy Shield infrastructure. There are still many discussions regarding whether Privacy Shield will be adequate – and the working party will be reviewing the progress of Privacy Shield annually, so we expect to see further coverage of the matter in April 2017. 

Looking forward to 2017

Furthermore, we expect to see a significant amount of focus on the human side of the data centre next year. There has already been a large amount of progress in terms of establishing a baseline of skills and standards for data centre operational staff in the Uptime Institute’s M&O certification. However, the industry has room for a greater adoption of standards. 2017 will continue to see a focus on skills, competencies and how human staff manage the mission critical environments.

Within the technical arena, we anticipate that 2017 will see a number of environmental developments in the data centre. For example, although a lot of progress has been made, we expect to see a number of energy efficiency developments, such as how temperature is handled in the data centre. There have already been considerable gains in terms of ambient air cooling, temperature ‘zoning’ and other developments, but there is still considerable room for growth.

Similarly, there have been a number of interesting developments for data centre security which will no doubt have a positive impact on how data centres are run. For example, physical and virtual technologies are emerging and in use which can help data centre operators to reduce the amount of caging in the raised floor environment but still allow customers to meet compliance and regulatory demands.

Looking further ahead, it would be good to see further development and leverage from the potential that DCiM (Data centre infrastructure management) offers, when thinking in terms of the data centre environment, the IT and automation. DCiM still has a lot of untapped potential. There is significant scope for data centres to play a key role in the evolution of smart cities. After all, there have already been a large number of exciting changes in how information within urban environments is gathered, helping to improve aspects such as traffic flow efficiency, pollution control and urban area usage.

Data centres – particularly ‘edge’ facilities – are key in processing this information, and it is certain that smart cities and the internet of things will be significant drivers of space usage in data centres of the future. In short, 2017 promises to be a very eventful year!

Steve Weiner, Senior Lead Product Manager, Global Colocation Services, CenturyLink (opens in new tab)

Image source: Shutterstock/Scanrail1