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User Demands Are Transforming The Data Center Industry

There is no danger that demand for data centers will contract anytime in the near future, or even in the foreseeable future, according to the speakers on the Future of Infrastructure panel at Bisnow's recent Phoenix Data Centers event.

The challenge for data center owners and operators will be providing the speed and location that the market is demanding — and that can be a tall order. Data centers with infrastructure that cannot handle the increasing demand for speed are going to be left behind.

Black & Veatch Director, Data Centers Rob Nash-Boulden, who moderated, Wave Broadband | RCN Vice President, Critical Infrastructure Engineering Matthew Waymire, QTS Director, Strategic Procurement Nathan Hazelwood and DartPoints Chief Development Officer Michael Ortiz

The growth of data usage in certain industries in particular is going to be transformative for data centers, the speakers said.

Healthcare, for instance, is ideal for cloud infrastructure. The industry poses an opportunity for data centers, because people need immediate access to health records, anytime, wherever they are. Quick, the speakers asked rhetorically, what medicines are you taking?

Most people could not remember that off the top of their heads, at least not in the detail that could make a difference during a medical emergency. But when that information is in the cloud and instantly accessible from anywhere in the world, that will make a profound difference in the delivery of emergency medicine.

The transfer of medical records to electronic formats is another part of increasing data usage in the industry. When will pad and pencil jump to the cloud? It is already happening, and it is going to drive the demand for data centers and demand for speed, the speakers said.

On the horizon are even more dramatic changes in the interface between medicine and information technology. The first hour after the onset of a serious medical condition or a traumatic injury is a critical time — the faster treatment begins, the better the odds for the patient.

In the not-too-distant future, physicians will be able to operate remotely on patients in medical evacuation helicopters, controlling highly sophisticated robots to do the surgery. That kind of technology will require the instantaneous flow of enormous amounts of data.

Former Expedia Director, Data Center Services Christopher Neil, Agile DataSites President and CEO Jeffrey Plank and Skanska’s Mission Critical Center of Excellence Senior Vice President Mike Silla

Healthcare is only one industry driving data use, the speakers said. Other evolving industries that will create and use enormous amounts of data include autonomous vehicles, the Internet of Things and various applications of artificial intelligence.

As businesses and data use evolves, the speakers said, companies need to decide which applications and data they want under their immediate control, and which can be relinquished to a cloud provider — especially the big four in that business, AWS, Google Cloud Platform, Oracle and Microsoft Azure, though there are some smaller ones specializing in a particular part of the software stack.

Many companies might consider combining the large public cloud providers along with a specialist. The question they need to ask is whether their organizations have the skill set to be in a multi-vendor environment?

As an industry, the speakers said, data centers are evolving into more of a utility model. As a utility, data centers will increasingly rely on a readily available talent pool that can be trained to keep the system running. It will not always be easy to find the right talent.

The traditional co-location market is changing, the speakers said. One of the biggest challenges of the transition for companies with traditional data centers will be the move to multi-tenant cloud environments. 

But the new environment will make the transition worthwhile for most companies, in terms of cost-effectiveness and even security.

One speaker gave the example of a physician practice of more than 500 doctors in 100 locations that is migrating its data, including applications and backup, from in-house data centers to a cloud-based platform. 

At 3 a.m. recently, the practice had an in-house data center meltdown, but because its data and legacy applications had been backed up to the cloud, the doctors were able to go to work the next morning.