The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us many lessons. For data center providers, it’s the fact that the theory of evolution and natural selection also applies to them. Unless they learn to become the fittest — innovative, flexible, scalable, and efficient — then they won’t survive the next few years as the demand for the internet, applications, and websites continue to rapidly increase.
How can data centers compete and serve the needs of a market that seems to change at lightning speed? Digital transformation can influence their growth.
Also read: Democratizing IT for Rapid Digital Transformation
Digital Transformation’s Influence
Here are the three biggest digital transformation trends in 2021 and their impact on data centers:
In traditional data centers, several IT-smart individuals operate, maintain, and assess the servers. They are also involved in a variety of routine tasks, such as checking for cybersecurity breaches or intrusion, ensuring that their processes are compliant with laws and regulations, and monitoring the bandwidth traffic and latency to keep customers happy.
This strategy might have worked when the demand was low. Today, the available IT staff can hardly keep up with the amount of work needed, and that severely limits the capability of a data center. For data centers to be truly competitive, significant investment in new infrastructure architectures as well as in people and space is required. These changes will provide greater scalability and efficiency.
Data automation makes providers more agile and efficient without significantly increasing operations and maintenance costs.
With data automation, data centers can:
- Provide data on the infrastructure’s status, configurations, and server nodes; making it easier to identify the present and future capabilities of the center.
- Free up IT specialists from performing routine tasks, like scheduling and monitoring, so they can focus on other critical areas of managing a data center.
- Design flexible processes and systems that make them compliant not only to the clients’ needs but also to federal, state, and industry policies.
A data center that runs automation tools can immediately allocate a part of the bandwidth of e-sports or games at times when the demand is low (such as when the players are sleeping) to the e-commerce site during sale days, particularly holidays.
The server can do this by simply paying attention to the incoming web queries for both applications — even without human interaction or intervention.
Read more: Data Center Automation Will Enable the Next Phase of Digital Transformation
Preventing Cybersecurity Risks
Along with the increasing demand and use of the Internet, IoT devices, and the cloud, data centers also now face rampant cybersecurity breaches.
Last year, Equinix, one of the world’s biggest data centers, was hit by a ransomware attack. The hackers demanded $4.5 million in payment. And, in 2019, an intrusion compelled VPN provider NordVPN to cut ties with its Finnish data center facility.
Many factors make data centers both vulnerable and attractive to cybercriminals.
- They are likely to use many tools, which means hackers have various entry points.
- Because of the growing demand for their services, available human resources may not be capable of extensively monitoring signs of breaches or intrusions.
- In some cases, monitoring is scheduled, leaving a window for cybercriminals to enter the system with less to zero detection.
Data automation can help minimize or even prevent cybersecurity risks. Digital transformation can also strengthen collaboration among network managers, the IT department, and the management when sharing real-time security data. Take, for example, digital twins.
With digital twins, the data center provider can create a replica of what they have mainly for simulation. Relevant stakeholders can apply various scenarios and change settings and configurations as often as they like to identify cybersecurity risks.
The information digital twins provide can then be made available to everyone involved, from server administrators on the floor to IT executives who make more management-related decisions rooted in real-time accurate data.
Also read: What is a Digital Twin?
Edge Computing and Hybrid Data Centers
Although data centers remain essential, they also face tough competition with the public cloud. In a 2021 report by Gartner, the global end-user spending on public cloud services could reach over $332 billion or at least a 23 percent increase compared to the previous year.
Compare that to data center spending that could be worth only $200 billion within the same period. This represents a mere 6 percent growth than in 2020.
No one can fault businesses for spending more on the public cloud, which are efficient, agile, and scalable. The public cloud also offers a more reasonably priced strategy of managing, organizing, and storing data through the available “as-a-service” models.
Some data centers attempt to compete, but they cannot completely upload their servers to the cloud because their technology may already be legacy or incompatible. Furthermore, using them may only make the system less compliant and susceptible to security breaches.
Fortunately, with digital transformation trends, data centers now have more options to compete. One strategy is through maximizing edge computing. Instead of building large data center facilities in select places around the globe, providers may break them down and place them much closer to the source of the information.
This means that servers may only be hundreds of meters away from central business districts and urban areas, where businesses are more abundant. This setup can then help reduce issues with latency and bandwidth traffic and allow users to access and share their data more easily.
Supporting edge data centers is 5G, which can improve both speed and reliability of servers and provide them the ability to support applications and the explosive growth of internet-connected devices.
These digital transformation trends can make data centers profitable, competitive, reliable, and scalable without forcing providers to break the bank.
Read next: Approaches to Cybersecurity in 5G-driven Enterprise Networks