Data has become the lifeblood of today’s global digital economy, powering diverse industrial activity from retail and manufacturing to infrastructure and transport. It is data centers that form the backbone of this flow of information. The proliferation of data across our digital world is accelerating at a phenomenal speed, with over 175 zettabytes of data expected to be generated annually by 2025.

With digital transformation driving data-heavy applications such as the Internet of things (IoT) and cloud, the role of data centers is also expanding, serving as a vital intersection point for the data of individuals, businesses and economies. As an ever-growing part of business in the modern world, the data center influences the functioning of many aspects of the business enterprise including data backup and recovery, networking, website hosting, e-mail management and security, providing support for cloud storage applications and for e-commerce transactions. To meet worldwide demand, hyperscale providers have been building data centers and expanding their fleet in the past few years. However, increasing complexities of operating and maintaining these facilities are creating an unprecedented set of challenges which must be met with a new approach.

The world has shifted significantly, and the way we do business is already changing. This change will continue to accelerate. Industrial organizations in all sectors are producing and using vast amounts of data and are therefore requiring data centers to run their operations. Increasing remote working and virtual collaboration in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic has ensured that the demand for data centers remains strong. Hyperscale providers especially continue to move forward with their expansion plans, and we have seen no negative impact for this market to date. There is, however, an increasing need for remote monitoring and for the ability to manage data centers across a broad regional or even across global geographies.

Thriving in the ‘new normal’

As the global economic downturn forces organizations to re-evaluate their offerings as well as re-size their operations, we will see many more companies moving their workloads to data centers, as these facilities will play a crucial role in reaching their performance expectations. In today’s volatile environment, the data center is more than just a safe and secure facility with space that is equipped with reliable power and a network, it is a valuable addition to many organizational infrastructures, a dependable extension of the IT team and an indispensable factor for success.

Covid-19 has paved the way for digital transformation as businesses shift operations and re-invent themselves to cope with new social distancing measures, restricted movements and supply interruptions. The ‘new normal,’ as post pandemic reality sets in, will see a new digital age rapidly dawning. Digital capabilities will increasingly act as a barometer for economic resilience and the industries that will thrive past the Covid-19 crisis are those that can digitalize completely. For example, the hospitality sector is really suffering because it can only partially digitalize and that is why dine-in restaurants are empty but online take-away services are booming. Indeed, once the lock downs end, it is those industries that can remain fully online that will ultimately realize the significant benefits of digitalization.

Interoperability is the key

Cloud computing is also transforming the design and deployment of data centers, and while cloud solutions were typically delivered over the internet by a third party, it is now becoming increasingly common to see the model applied within an organization’s data center as a private cloud. Although industry research indicates a major shift in thinking toward cloud, traditional data center models and cloud are not mutually exclusive. Data center transformation will continue to evolve, and CIOs now think about the cloud not as an ‘or’ strategy but rather an ‘and’ strategy when compared to traditional data center hosting.

The shift toward a new computing environment undoubtably adds layers of complexity that have broad implications for how information technology managers secure the components of a data center to protect data from malicious attack or compromise. That’s why it is vital for organizations, today to integrate security into the design of their data centers. With so much of the world’s economy increasingly reliant on digital infrastructure, meeting the highest standards of governance for these critical assets is as much a social as it is a business obligation. Security, in particular, poses an ever-changing challenge, given that successful business continuity is dependent on a secure environment.

The Covid-19 pandemic has reinforced the importance of data centers and cloud computing for our society. In the early days of the crisis, the data center industry served as the backstop for the global economy, supporting a massive shift to online services. The pandemic has been a watershed event for the world, and a defining moment for the data center and cloud. For many organizations, the digital transformation that was expected to take years has been compressed into days and weeks. Entire industries are being reset, and digital infrastructure is front and center in the transition. The data center industry must rapidly adjust to a complex new reality. Demand for cloud services will soar in some sectors, but wither in other verticals as they shift into survival mode.

With economic resilience now tied so closely to our digital infrastructure, and with the rate of data consumption growing exponentially, investment into innovative technologies for data centers is in our macro interest as much as on an operational level. The role of the data center is changing, and the operators who will thrive in the coming years are those who see themselves as a true partner to businesses and economies. With the data market scaling exponentially, it will take the intersection of both vision and the right technology to create the global digital infrastructure that will drive growth in the years to come.