As data center owner/operators face the challenges of balancing legacy platforms and emerging solutions, there is one trend the entire industry has been experiencing; everything is changing faster than ever before.

The last fifteen years of the datacenter and IT industry have demonstrated incredible change at speeds that seem to eclipse the technology trends of the past. Techies and marketers favor the “Moore’s Law” label to explain the experience. Creative types describe the changes as disruptive innovation.

wheel traction
wheel traction – Thinkstock

The pace is accelerating

Reminiscing on the changes I have seen in my life, I asked a veteran datacenter manager, a Babyboomer, if he felt that change was getting faster. His response was that technology change has been getting faster for him, ever since the 70s. He felt that the advances in the space race, computing, manufacturing, and process, all lead to a perfect storm of never ending technology change.

In considering this, I recognized that from the time “boomers” were born, they have embraced change and formed the technology and productivity world of today. Consider a few of the inventions of the “Boomer” generation: UNIX, “C”, Ethernet, personal computing, the internet, the PC modem, e-commerce, mobile phone, disk drive storage, fiber optic networking, the router, the video codec, and many more technologies in many different fields.

Being a GenX, I wondered whether the advances/technology changes of my generation have increased in speed. So I checked the statistics on US patents and found a plausible relationship between the generation and the number of patents filed each year.

Acclerating change - patents by generation
 Generation Years US patents per year
 Baby Boomer  1963-1984  68,274
 GenX  1984-2004  121,846
 GenY  2004-2014  236,337

If utility patent filings can represent technology change, then the rate of change increased by 78.5 percent between Baby Boomers and GenX, and 94 percent between GenX and GenY. The increase between the Baby Boomer baseline and GenX was 246 percent. There are other factors that undoubtedly influence these statistics, but the characteristic growth of filings imply an explosion of innovation and invention, with no sign it will slow. Notably, if you include all domestic US and Foreign filings, as of 1998, there is less than 10 percent p.a. difference in the filing volumes.

Reshaping the world

So how does this apply to the future impacts on the data center and the physical infrastructure that supports the digital solutions of tomorrow? Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times, in his op-ed column, “Time for a Pause” said: “What’s going on? We’re in the midst of a Gutenberg-scale change in how information is generated, stored, shared, protected and turned into products and services.” Friedman quotes Dov Seidman, author of the book “How”: 

“The world is not just rapidly changing; it is being dramatically reshaped”… “it’s all happened faster than we’ve reshaped ourselves and developed the necessary norms, behaviors, laws and institutions to adapt.” With the increase in population growth, the interdependencies of global technology industry, and the insatiable demand for more connectivity, mobility, and data, the future a new “Economy of Innovations.”

In my view, while the ideas and innovations of today may seem like remixes of the industry cycles before, there are clear differences in how the datacenter and infrastructure industry must adapt.

  1. The interrelationships and interdependencies of this new generation of innovators, drive toward collaborative, codevelopment, and co-operated technology platforms, infrastructure, and spaces.
  2. The difference between those who lead and those who follow, will be risk tolerance, speed of decision, the flexible pivoting spirit, the never ending process of learning from failure and success, and the ability to demonstrate proof data, not just write or talk about it.
  3. The greatest rewards will fall to those who can help “raise all boats” in the struggle to innovate, while protecting the Intellectual Property that differentiates them from others.
  4. The winners will be those who apply solutions vertically to address full-stack needs, horizontally for optimized costs and perfomance, and with a global awareness of the policy, economic, and environmental conditions that will require decision pivots.

I see a future of optimistic innovations, moving at light speed.

Eddie Shutter is a former board member of Data Center Pulse. He will be at the DCD Internet event in San Francisco, on 30 and 31 July