Looking Ahead: Data Centers in Ten Years

Are you among the millions of business owners who has decided to switch their processes over to the cloud? For first-time cloud users, it’s quite amazing: your data is no longer in a bulky filing cabinet or stored on your computer; it’s stored somewhere you can’t see it, and you can access it from anywhere.

If this is what we’ve managed to accomplish in 2014, what will data storage and accessibility be like in 2025? Right now, it seems difficult to fathom, but it’s something that IT professionals have already begun thinking about.

First, let’s look at what we’ve accomplished over the last decade. Just ten years ago, data rack densities were about 250 watts to 1.5 kilowatts…and we didn’t even have Facebook. Data center capacity was plentiful because we weren’t even creating that much data. It wasn’t until the past few years that the cloud even became a “thing,” and five years ago it was nowhere near the capacity that it is now.

What’s to Come
Over 800 data centers weighed in to produce Emerson’s Data Center 2025, a research initiative that gives us insight into what data center technology will look like that year. The biggest point of agreement is that a much larger percentage of computing – some 60 to 70 percent – will usecloud providers, meaning that data centers will be much, much smaller. 58 percent agree that they’ll be at least half the current size or smaller, and some contributors even said they could be 1/10th their current size come 2025.

As far as temperature management, not much is expected to change. Currently, a combination of air and liquid is used to keep data center cools, and 41% of participants in the study seem to think it’s going to stay that way. Another 20% believe we’ll see an introduction of free cooling, or ambient air, as the main method for cooling data centers. A small percentage weighed in that immersive cooling will become much more prominent.

As you’ve probably guessed, most people seem to think that in terms of power, data centers in 2025 will be highly efficient. There will be a higher power density – an agreed-upon 52kW per rack – but also less energy needed to run them at a comparable performance level. While we once may have believed that power densities would skyrocket over time, this theory has been proven wrong by the fact that it hasn’t increased much over the past ten years.

A few more interesting facts: many experts believe that solar energy will become the main source of power for data centers, and 65% believe private power generators will fuel large-scale facilities. Additionally, it’s expected that IT resource utilization rates will be somewhere around 60% (as compared to today’s 6-12%).

In other words…
Of course, there are mixed opinions on what the future’s data centers will look like, and no one can say for sure. That being said, most seem to agree that IT and facilitation will converge to create systems that are automated, efficient, and integrated in order to keep up with necessary speeds.