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Navigating the 2024 data centre landscape

Navigating the 2024 data centre landscape

Data CentresFeaturesIndustry ExpertInsights

Approaching the new year brings optimism for some along with a sense of urgency for others, as talent issues and security concerns spill into the start of 2024. We hear from three industry experts who discuss their expectations for the year ahead, focusing on sustainability, infrastructure developments and compliance.

Page Haun, Chief Marketing Officer and Chief ESG Strategy Officer, Cologix

Page Haun, Chief Marketing Officer and Chief ESG Strategy Officer, Cologix

In the heart of bustling downtown areas, carrier hotels stand as the Grand Central Stations of connectivity, strategically housing networks and cloud services. Originally rooted in the telephone exchange network, these buildings served as pivotal hubs where operators physically switched traffic to interconnect networks across different regions.

Evolved over generations, carrier hotels have transformed into essential Edge facilities, enabling network providers to connect their backbones efficiently without duplicating extensive infrastructures. The Meet-Me-Rooms (MMRs) within carrier hotels facilitate physical connections between providers, offering businesses a cost-effective, single-entry point to a diverse suite of network options.

Looking forward to 2024, carrier hotels will continue to play a central role in interconnectivity, offering network providers a platform to build, route traffic and service customers. The benefits for modern businesses are manifold:

Resiliency, redundancies and best-in-class facilities

Carrier hotels, established as meeting places for networks, are purpose-built to deliver the highest levels of uptime, which is crucial for any business. These facilities undergo stringent evaluations to ensure they meet the most rigorous standards, yet not all facilities that house networks adhere to these high standards. This emphasises the importance of selecting a colocation facility within a carrier hotel, ensuring continuous connectivity and protected data operations.

The ability to choose between carriers

Businesses can choose network providers based on their specific objectives, whether driving down network costs, establishing redundancies, improving network performance or accessing new carriers not available on their premises. This choice-driven approach allows businesses to tailor their network partnerships to meet their unique needs and objectives, ensuring a customised and efficient networking solution.

Access to cloud providers

Carrier hotels are no longer exclusive to carriers and enterprises; they now host major public cloud service providers (CSPs) like Amazon, Microsoft, Google, IBM and Oracle. Network-neutral colocation providers within carrier hotels, such as Cologix, serve as trusted partners for hosting CSPs’ onramps, offering clients reliable solutions for cloud, hybrid and multi-cloud implementations.

In essence, carrier hotels remain the bedrock of interconnection, adapting to evolving technologies while preserving its core concept of being a hub for network providers to serve their customers. For 2024, we anticipate this trend to not only endure but to further solidify the significant role of carrier hotels in shaping digital connectivity.

Rami Jebara, CTO, Hyperview 

Rami Jebara, CTO, Hyperview

As we approach 2024, the data centre industry is poised for continued growth and innovation. The pendulum shift between cloud and self-managed infrastructure will continue to stabilise, guided by factors such as cost management, geopolitical pressures, data residency requirements and the rise of Edge Computing. The cloud’s honeymoon period is over, and its appeal is waning. Organisations have discovered that the cloud is not a business strategy but rather a service delivery technology suited for specific types of applications. As a result, a hybrid approach has been turning more heads.  

With the rise of this hybrid infrastructure, Edge Computing will accelerate to manage the growing data from smart devices. By processing and storing data locally, Edge minimises bandwidth constraints while enabling real-time analytics and response. The distributed nature of the Edge aligns with the hybrid model. 

At the same time, data centre complexity will intensify with more infrastructure, data volumes and business demands. This added complexity will further strain already stretched infrastructure teams, especially amid ongoing talent shortages. It also heightens the need for advanced tools, instrumentation and automation. A lot of this will be powered by AI to handle and simplify the complexity. 

Sustainability reporting will become a focus as climate change draws more attention to energy usage and the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive comes into force. With detailed metering and monitoring, data centres will focus on refining their sustainability targets and optimise efficiency across operations. Data will be the backbone of greener decision-making and closer management of sustainability targets. 

On top of this, geopolitical tensions will drive greater investment in cybersecurity and compliance for data centres – they face growing threats through ransomware, espionage and more. Staying resilient requires comprehensive strategies combining staff training, policies and next-generation software tooling. 

Finally, the talent shortage will remain a pressing issue in data centres, furthering transformation towards automation and next-gen tools to support data centre management. This challenge persisted through 2023 and will be no different in 2024 and 2025. Generative AI will present itself as a potential companion to employees, aiding in bolstering productivity and bridging the staffing gaps. This trend isn’t confined to data centre operators alone; we can expect all sectors to capitalise on AI and ‘smart assistants’. 

In summary, 2024 will see data centres become more distributed, complex and AI-driven as hybrid becomes more popular. At the same time, climate awareness and geopolitics will put more focus on sustainability, security and compliance across these hybrid environments. Data centres will remain an essential foundation of our digital lives, but their model will continue evolving. 

Terry Storrar, Managing Director, Leaseweb

Terry Storrar, Managing Director, Leaseweb

All those operating in the data centre industry will currently be reflecting on this year and planning for the next. Although there are unlikely to be radical changes in the current climate, with many business sectors in survival mode, data centre operators and service providers are having to invest and innovate to achieve stringent environmental goals. 

Undeniably, sustainability will stay firmly in the hotspot throughout 2024. It is a serious issue that power-hungry data centre businesses must act on for the long term. But rather than expectations of huge strides, it is more a pattern that industry players are taking smaller, surer steps towards environmental goals such as achieving 100% renewable energy use. The pace of initiatives is gaining momentum and, while businesses are committed to common industry goals – demonstrated for example by the Climate Neutral Data Pact – the drive to be as green as possible is also fuelling competition as individual companies vie for business. 

Data centre businesses will embrace Artificial Intelligence further into next year, crucially to manage and source clean energy. AI will not suddenly revolutionise the industry but as it becomes more mainstream, it will facilitate progress as data centres learn to apply AI technologies for more efficient and sustainable operations.

The industry as a whole needs to be doing more to tap into less explored clean energy sources like hydrogen, along with sustained efforts to identify and support environmentally friendly models such as IaaS and SaaS. It is extremely positive that customers are challenging data centre businesses on their green credentials, along with more government regulations coming into play. These are all helping to drive the changes that will continue to shape data centres into 2024 and beyond.

Carl Shallow, Director of Compliance, Integrity360

Carl Shallow, Director of Compliance, Integrity360

We’ve seen organisations digitally transforming and maturing at both speed and scale.

The pandemic brought about years of change in the way companies in all sectors and regions operate. According to a July 2020 McKinsey Global Survey, executives revealed that COVID-19 had accelerated the digitisation of their customer and supply-chain interactions and of their internal operations by three to four years.

That pace of change has led to the widespread adoption of cloud tools and technologies. From a security perspective, we’ve recently seen organisations embracing Cloud-Native Application Protection Platforms (CNAPPs) – a cloud-native security model intended to replace the use of multiple independent tools with one holistic security solution for modern enterprises with cloud-native workloads.

That’s the picture that’s largely been painted from 2020-2023. But what of 2024? Where it was thought that there would be a logical and continuous shift away from on-prem to the cloud, this transition is now not as certain as it once was, with concerns having been growing among organisations for several reasons in recent times.

First, there have been several high-profile cloud breaches. For example, in June 2023, automaker, Toyota, revealed that roughly 260,000 customers’ data was exposed due to a misconfigured cloud environment. Further, the 2023 Thales Cloud Security Study revealed that 39% of businesses experienced a data breach in their cloud environment in the last year. 

However, it’s not just security, but also cost that’s a potential challenge. According to Flexera’s State of the Cloud 2023 report, cost is the number one concern with cloud, knocking security off the top spot for the first time in 10 years. Organisations are spending significantly on cloud platforms and supportive security, yet the economic gains that they anticipated are struggling to materialise in many cases.

Of course, the cloud won’t be scrapped. Yet it’s possible that we’ll see several organisations planning to move a proportion of their key assets back on-prem in 2024 as they seek to ease concerns surrounding both cost and security. 

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