Top 10 Data Center Stories of 2020

Much of the 2020 data center news cycle has been dominated by the efforts of colocation and hyperscale operators to quickly adapt to unprecedented levels of demand for cloud services around the world as the pandemic Covid-19 was taking hold.

As governments around the world issued “stay-at-home” mandates for their citizens, businesses had no choice but to embrace remote working and were forced to rapidly accelerate the pace of their digital transformation efforts to ensure that their IT systems were equipped to cope.

In many cases, this led companies to increase their use of public cloud-based computing resources, both from an infrastructure and software perspective, creating challenges of their own for responsible data center operators. to host these services.

Not only did they have to ensure they had enough spare data center capacity to meet demand, but site updates have also been affected by Covid-19-related supply chain issues and social distancing challenges.

At the same time, the industry has come under increasing pressure to clean up its performance from a sustainability point of view, as environmental issues and concerns about climate change continue to be high on the agenda. from the boardroom of companies around the world.

In response, some of the major industry players have made public their commitments to reduce their carbon emissions this year and are pledging to increase the use of renewables to ensure that continued industry growth does not come at the expense of the environment. environment.

Here are Computer Weekly’s Top 10 Data Center Stories of 2020:

1. The growth of the placement market is off to a great start in 2020

The colocation industry was already on track for another strong year of growth in 2020, driven in large part by continued demand for data center capacity from hyperscale cloud giants that persisted through 2019.

Data published in February 2020 by real estate consultancy CBRE served to confirm that this trend is likely to continue over the next 12 months, given the revelation that some operators entered 2020 with a considerable part of their facilities already rented despite that these data centers are not even available. still built.

As a result, this fueled more speculation (and a bit of concern) that space within Europe’s major colocation centers could soon start to run out and that operators should start investing in building server farms in other locations. to meet the demand.

2. Covid-19 Drives Demand for Data Center Capacity Even Higher

The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic set in motion a sequence of events that have contributed to the demand for data center capacity rising even higher than expected over the course of 2020.

As governments around the world issued stay-at-home orders to halt the growth of the pandemic, consumers turned to Internet-based streaming and communication services like never before for entertainment, while businesses were they rushed to implement cloud-based collaboration tools to enable remote work.

According to data released by real estate consultancy Knight Frank and data center analyst house DC Byte, this contributed to 50% higher placement acceptance rates during the first half of 2020 compared to the year. previous.

3. Microsoft’s European data centers suffer from capacity shortages as Covid-19 takes hold

Microsoft is among the public cloud giants that has seen a huge increase in demand for its productivity and collaboration services during the pandemic, and in April 2020, its data centers clearly began to feel the strain.

Following reports on social media from Microsoft users having technical difficulties trying to deploy virtual machines hosted in its European data centers, the software giant was forced to introduce metrics to ensure it had sufficient capacity to satisfy the demand.

The company said at the time that it was “accelerating” efforts to bring additional data center capacity online, but would temporarily prioritize the use of cloud resources by mission-critical groups (including first responders). ) and existing customers.

4. Covid-19 asks data center operators to suspend non-essential site updates.

The data center industry also faced other challenges during the pandemic, as lockdown measures that affected several countries around the world affected supply chains and made it difficult for operators at times to obtain the necessary hardware to equip their facilities. .

In some cases, this (along with social distancing mandates) also created complications to ensure that the construction of new data centers could continue as planned, with operators initially recommended to suspend any nonessential upgrades and construction for these. reasons.

5. The data center industry rises in importance during the pandemic

Which the pandemic has undoubtedly highlighted how dependent the world, and its increasingly digital economy, is on data centers, and it’s fair to say that government policy makers and investors have certainly realized this. during 2020.

Specifically in the UK, this was manifested in the decision to put data center staff on the government’s list of key workers (granting them waivers from lock-in travel waivers) and the creation of a designated team within government to give the industry a voice in Covid-related matters. matters.

6. Microsoft reveals two-year test results in subsea data centers

While the industry as a whole struggled to ensure that businesses and consumers had sufficient cloud capacity to overcome the Covid-19 crisis, hyperscalers continued to push the boundaries in terms of innovation in data center design.

With the industry continually striving to improve the performance, endurance and power consumption of its facilities, Microsoft announced the results of its multi-year subsea data center test.

The project saw Microsoft deploy a prototype 40-foot installation, 117 feet underwater, off the coast of Scotland’s Orkney Islands during the spring of 2018, and concluded that submerged server farms are more than eight times more reliable. than those of terrestrial facilities.

The software giant has since confirmed that the lessons learned from the project will be used to inform the edge computing strategy for its Azure public cloud data centers, so that it can determine where best to host “tactical” workloads. and criticism ”.

7. Google continues to drive innovation in green data centers

Of all the hyperscale cloud giants, Google’s track record on sustainability takes some beating, and the company has revealed more details about how far it will make its data centers even greener this year.

The public cloud and internet search giant published details of a pilot project running within its data centers in April 2020 that involves the use of an internally developed carbon smart computing system that ensures that tasks are performed. Non-rush computing when your facility is most likely to be powered by renewable energy.

The system uses forecast data to predict when wind and solar supplies are likely to be most abundant, and schedules non-urgent tasks to be performed during peak renewable energy supply periods.

“This is done without additional hardware and without affecting the performance of Google services such as Search, Maps and YouTube that people trust around the clock,” said Ana Radovanovic, technical lead for the Carbon-Intelligent Computing system, in a post. blog.

8. The co-location community makes carbon reduction commitments

The data center industry has been under continuous pressure for the past decade or so to clean up its performance from a sustainability perspective, and in 2020 several major players in the colocation space have pledged to do more than ever to reduce your carbon emissions.

Among the first was Digital Realty, which went public with a 10-year commitment, led by climate science and company-wide, to reduce its carbon emissions by 2030 in May 2020, and several of its competitors, including CyrusOne, followed suit soon after.

As for why so many members of the co-location community are pledging to act now, analyst house 451 Research prediction in October 2020 that sustainability will become a source of competitive difference for the co-location community in 2023 can explain why.

9. The data center industry calculates the costs of underinvesting in resilience

While sustainability emerged as a growing investment priority for data center operators during 2020, the year also served to highlight why the industry cannot afford to ignore investment in projects to bolster the uptime and resilience of its operations. installations.

According to research published by the industry think tank Uptime Institute in July 2020, the financial consequences of data center outages continue to grow year over year, and operators freely admit that many of these downtime incidents could avoided if they invested more in resilience.

“It is clear that outages occur with disturbing frequency, that larger outages are becoming more damaging and costly, and what has been gained in improved engineering and processes has been partially offset by the challenges of maintaining increasingly complex systems. ”Says the attached report. .

10. TikTok commits to building the first European data center in Ireland

It’s fair to say that 2020 has been a tumultuous year for short-form video social media site TikTok. While the number of users has skyrocketed over the year, its Chinese parent company ByteDance came under pressure to divest its US operations at the urging of outgoing President Trump or face shutdown in August 2020.

Undeterred, the company set plans at the same time to open its first European data center in 2022 in Ireland, as part of a concerted effort to improve service performance and better protect the data of its European user base.

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