Data centers, data sovereignty, energy efficiency… Discover the trends in the data center sector in 2021

Marie Chabanon, Chief Technical Officer at DATA4

Data centers are continuing to grow and adapt to the challenges of the pandemic. The roll-out of 5G, the acceleration of and migration onto cloud environments, the growth in automation and AI, as well as growing needs in terms of security, have all revealed the need to keep adapting to a technological framework that is increasingly crucial to business. In this context, the trends that emerged in 2020 – such as the creation of local data centers with the advent of Edge Computing, data sovereignty, and environmental awareness – will consolidate and accelerate in 2021.

The emergence of local data centers

Edge Computing lets users collect and process the data produced by the devices, systems, and networks closest to where the data is used. Its increased uptake, in particular due to the increase in IoT projects and a growing number of devices that generate thousands of pieces of data every second, has revealed a new trend in the data center sector: the need to enlist the services of “local” data centers that are closer at hand. They enable companies to gain independence and speed, as well as to optimise other aspects like lag and the cost of communications.

More evenly distributed data center locations

When it came to the construction of data centers, very recently the FLAP (Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam and Paris) European rankings were the domain of major cities. Today, their locations have diversified and can be found in more places all around the world, including outside their traditional markets. The number of campuses should continue to grow in countries where investments had previously been lower, as is the case with Southern Europe. While we are still seeing growing demand for space for data centers, management of these spaces will need to be spread more evenly between regions.

Shared centers, the agility factor

Shared centers provide users with a more flexible environment that can adapt on the fly. This lets businesses focus on their core business, all while enjoying higher quality services and enhanced security. Using shared centers can also offer financial advantages, reducing costs and freeing businesses to invest CapEx in their core business. Combining efficiency and security, these kinds of facilities are also better able to weather the uncertainty that came with 2020, by offering services tailored to the needs of businesses.

Guaranteeing data sovereignty

Depending on where the data centers are located, the sovereignty of the facilities can also become a key factor that affects a business’ competitive edge. Data centers located in Europe are vital in guaranteeing this security. Indeed, the European regulatory framework, in addition to that of each Member State, dictates the levels of protection, confidentiality, and security of the data hosted in these data centers. With cloud services becoming an increasingly formidable force, data sovereignty is now a major issue that European companies must take into account, in order to define a solid strategy to protect and store their data within their own country or the European Union.

Sustainable development driving efficiency

The major increase in business volumes experienced by the sector over the past few years has brought with it a much needed increase in awareness of how much energy buildings consume. Stakeholders in the data center sector are playing an active role in cultivating this awareness, adopting cleaner practices through systems and solutions that are better for the environment. Sector stakeholders are opting for solutions that let them manage their energy use more efficiently. DATA4, in particular, has implemented a model for analysing the life-cycle of its facilities that automatically incorporates the environmental impact of computing equipment throughout its life-cycle: from manufacture, to use, and end of life.

Accelerating automation

Although some particular actions can still only be performed manually, the trend is for accelerated automation of the various processes performed within data centers. According to a study by Mordor Intelligence, the data center automation market could grow from $7.34bn in 2019 to $19.65bn dollars in 2025.

Automation platforms handle most operations performed by servers, such as inventorying components, logging, the instant replacement of malfunctioning hardware, and network and storage configurations, etc. This approach has clear benefits, and data centers that invest in automation will be able to reduce their costs and operate more efficiently over the long-term.

Data centers are counting on innovation to cement their role as the backbone of digital industry. As such, they have a duty to support the digital transition and the development of a sustainable strategy for the whole digital ecosystem.