The thing about the Internet of Things (IoT) is that we really have no clue what it will mean. According to the mobile industry group, GSMA, by 2020 there will be 24 billion “things” connected to the internet of which half will be mobile devices. In contrast, the world’s population by 2020 will be around 8 billion. A different study by Cisco puts the number of devices connected to the Internet at 50 billion by 2020 or over 6 “Connected Devices” per person on this planet. Others talk about a trillion devices connected to the internet.
No matter which research you believe it’s going to be big, very big. For some time now data volumes have been doubling every 18 months but modern data centres with sufficient power on tap for running high density servers that can support highly virtualised environments have been coping. This has absorbed much of the huge growth so far but it is just the tip of the iceberg.
So how can we expect the IoT to impact on the data centre as it really starts to bite?
Over the last 10 years the data centre has become more and more critical and as the IoT pervades all aspects of daily life this trend can only continue. Imagine the M4 with driverless cars hurtling along and the data centre housing the control equipment goes off line. As the data centre becomes more and more mission critical the inevitable corollary is some form of Government regulation. Today there are no licences for operators and no minimum legal standards for the data centre itself. This is sure to change.
A recent report from IDC highlighted the challenges with old data centre infrastructure struggling to support IoT infrastructure. As the computing and storage technologies have followed Moore’s Law and delivered double the computing power every two years the performance of the data centre infrastructure in which it sits has typically not kept up.
The only way to do this is to have a highly flexible infrastructure that can adapt and grow to deliver the increasing power, environmental and security demands of IoT.
A typical rack in a data centre used to consume under 2 kW of power and older data centres were built to support this level. But power demands have increased dramatically as IoT and other services have developed and older data centres have responded by telling loyal customers that they need to use twice the space to support the increased power requirements.
Providers of IoT services should therefore ask their data centre suppliers for a roadmap on how they intend to satisfy the increasing demand for power. In addition they should ask for examples on how they have kept pace over the past five years in building new infrastructure.
The forecast level of interest in IoT is extremely high so ensuring your data centre has the capability to keep pace with a level of demand that has never been seen before is now a huge priority.
For those forward thinking operators who predicted massive increases in data traffic a decade or so ago, the need to accommodate the forecast demand from the IoT revolution should not come as a particular surprise. Companies are already establishing purpose-built, highly scalable out-of-town data centres having foreseen that the future generation of users will require much lower cost, lower risk facilities capable of housing vast amounts of data together with the pre-requisite levels of power and connectivity.
Take note, the London data centre market is already starting to creak under the strain of today’s compute demand. As with all major volume industries an inner city location such as London is increasingly untenable for delivering economies of scale – none more so than in the rapidly emerging data intensive IoT world order.