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Emerson Network: Massive Changes to the Data Center Ecosystem

Industry projects significant increases in density, cloud adoption and use of solar power

Emerson Network Power released “Data Center 2025: Exploring the Possibilities” a forward-thinking report summarizing four months of global research designed to identify the industry’s vision of the data center in the year 2025. The results range from the expected—increased utilization of the cloud—to the ambitious—largely solar-powered data centers with power densities exceeding 50 kW per rack. One thing was clear: Most experts believe the data center as we know it will undergo massive changes over the next decade.

More than 800 data center professionals from around the world responded to the Data Center 2025 survey, with dozens of others contributing their thoughts via interviews, email and video. The feedback, viewed collectively, indicates most in the field remain bullish on the data center industry and on continued innovation in the IT space and beyond. For example, on average, experts predict density in 2025 will climb to 52 kW per rack. According to the Data Center Users’ Group sponsored by Emerson Network Power, average density has remained relatively flat since peaking around 6 kW nearly a decade ago, but experts are anticipating a dramatic upswing in density that could radically change the physical environment of the data center.

“We started the Data Center 2025 initiative with a sincere desire to discover what our customers, collaborators, colleagues and others in the data center community believe the future holds for this industry,” said Steve Hassell, president, data center solutions, Emerson Network Power. “We approached the research with an open mind, no expectations and no preconceived notions of what we would find. The results reflect a level of sophisticated understanding, visionary thinking and genuine optimism that I find inspiring. I believe the true impact of this report lies not only in its measurement of current opinion, but in its ability to spark future innovation .”

Other notable survey results and forecasts from the report :


  • Big changes in how data centers are powered: The experts believe a mix of sources will be used to provide electrical power to data centers. Solar will lead, followed by a nearly equal mix of nuclear, natural gas and wind. Sixty-five percent believe it is likely hyperscale facilities will be powered by private power generation.
    Cloud forecasts are somewhat conservative: Industry experts predict two-thirds of data center computing will be done in the cloud in 2025. That’s actually a fairly conservative estimate. According to Cisco’s Global Cloud Index, cloud workloads represent around 46 percent of current total data center workloads, and will reach 63 percent by 2017.
  • DCIM will play a prominent role: Twenty-nine percent of experts anticipate comprehensive visibility across all systems and layers, while 43 percent expect data centers to be self-healing and self optimizing. Taken together, that would indicate 72 percent of the experts believe some level of DCIM will be deployed in 2025—significantly higher than most current estimates of DCIM adoption.
  • Utilization rates will be higher: That increased visibility is expected to lead to more efficient performance overall, as 72 percent of industry experts expect IT resource utilization rates to be at least 60 percent in 2025. The average projection is 70 percent. That compares to estimated averages today as low as 6-12 percent, with best practices somewhere between 30-50 percent.

“The data center of 2025 certainly won’t be one data center. The analogy I like to use is to transport,” said Andy Lawrence, vice president of Datacenter Technologies and Eco-efficient IT at 451 Research. “On the road, we see sports cars and family cars; we see buses and we see trucks. They have different kinds of engines, different types of seating and different characteristics in terms of energy consumption and reliability. We are going to see something similar to that in the data center world. In fact that is already happening, and I expect it to continue.”

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