Can data centres cope with the new digital data rush?

It was being claimed as far back as 2006 that ‘data is the new oil’. If this highly lucrative resource was fuelling business success more than a decade ago, think how much more valuable data as a commodity has become in the intervening period.

Data Centres in the UK

In the past two years alone, more data has been produced than in the previous 5,000 years of human history. With the rate of growth expected to continue almost exponentially, it is predicted that by 2020 there will be 10 times the amount of data there is today. The sheer scale of the data industry is mind-boggling, but where does all this information live? 

Data Centres: Bigger and Better


The UK boasts the largest data centre market in Europe. Digital Realty recently reported that the Data Economy is worth over £70bn to the UK each year and that each new data centre bought on line can add over £600m to the UK economy. However, as technology continues to evolve, and organisations become increasingly digital, it is becoming more and more difficult for data centres to meet the growing demand for storage.  

From autonomous vehicles and the Internet of Things (IoT), to the rise in home streaming services like Netflix or Spotify, digital technology is central to how we live today. The problem is these innovations all demand space for data exchange. 

Hyper-scale data centres are providing part of the answer. As requirements for cloud-based computing become increasingly widespread, extra-large high-density data centres are being delivered to feed the demand for storage. 

The Co-Location Data Centre market – selling space as a service – is growing fast and competition for secure, reliable and efficient data facilities, delivered to meet an ever-growing consumer demand will only intensify. 

5G Connected Cities 

Data is becoming increasingly integral to the digital operation of the world around us, with fifth generation mobile networks soon to become a reality in the UK. From smart-ticketing to integrated travel planning across road, rail and air, our cities are getting ready for a more connected future. 5G is vital for new technologies such as the safe operation of autonomous vehicles and the widespread roll-out of drone deliveries, which means that upgrading the necessary infrastructure to support this technology is essential.  

This isn’t just about installing more mobile phone masts though. We need to find different routes and mediums for the transport of 5G, including network sharing and closer integration with cloud infrastructure. Data centres will have a crucial role to play in relaying this influx of new information, and it is going to be vital to ensure they have the necessary bandwidth to cope with the volume of 5G data passing through the network. 

The Rise of Edge Computing 


Fortunately, another answer to address the lack of capacity in data centres lies in the evolution of data-centre technology itself. Edge Computing has been heralded as the next big thing alongside The Cloud. The Edge refers to computing infrastructure that exists close to the source of the data, it means that massive amounts of information can be accessed much more easily. 

Edge Computing reduces data transfer latency, where milliseconds make a real difference. For example, self-driving vehicles reacting to an obstacle and complex financial trading both require super-low latency.  Because the data is stored and processed closer to the application itself, rather than in the cloud, it means the data storage space requirements are also smaller. 

Crucially, cloud computing still has a critical role to play, but as part of a mixed mode of delivery. Data centres are power-hungry assets and operating costs can often be prohibitive. However, the decentralisation of analytics capability to Edge Computing solutions means that the data centres estate can become regionalised and more diverse in terms of scale and density. Connecting and repurposing vacant or underused property to deliver cloud requirements within the context of broader Edge Computing will be key. 

The Digital Future


Technology is constantly evolving, and as our future becomes more and more digitised the impact will increasingly be felt in our day-to-day lives. Ensuring that the infrastructure is in place to cope with the growing demands that will be placed on it by an ever-more data-centric society is key. 

Data storage is an integral part of the picture, but to ensure data centres as a physical asset remain fit-for-purpose they will also need to keep pace with the speed of technological change. The opportunities for growth are immense, but most importantly can only be realised if we are prepared to adapt and reinvent the old models. 

Nilesh Parmar

UK Head of Manufacturing & Technology Ask me a question