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Vertiv Experts Foresee Utility-Like Criticality for Data Centers in 2021

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As the world moved online seemingly overnight in the face of  the COVID-19 pandemic, the criticality of data centers and the unrelenting reliance on them across  all walks of life became an enduring storyline of the crisis. This reality will manifest in new ways in 2021 as the data center and the information ecosystem orbiting it emerge from the pandemic with a fourth utility criticality, complete with all the expectations and responsibilities that implies. This is  among the emerging 2021 data center trends identified by experts from Vertiv (NYSE: VRT), a  global provider of critical digital infrastructure and continuity solutions.

Data centers have long been held to high availability standards, but the shift toward utility-like  status will be noticeable in two ways. First, those high expectations for network availability will  extend deep into rural and remote areas, bringing critical applications to more of the population.  This will increase pressure on data centers to maintain connectivity even at the outer edges of their  networks. Second, any distinction between availability and connectivity will be erased, as the ability  to ensure and protect connections across increasingly distributed hybrid networks becomes as  much of a requirement as any traditional measure of data center uptime.

“Data centers have been moving toward public utility-type status for some time, but the pandemic  has crystalized the need to establish the kinds of official guardrails that have been commonplace  across other utilities,” said Gary Niederpruem, chief strategy and development officer for Vertiv.  “This isn’t just about working from home, although that is part of it. More importantly, it is about  supporting the digital economy in its most mission-critical forms, which include increased reliance  on telemedicine and health, enhanced e-commerce, and global telecommunications and mass  media.”

The pandemic effectively established a new baseline for digital infrastructure as the industry  adjusts to and eventually moves beyond the global shutdown. Against this backdrop, Vertiv’s  experts identified several other emerging trends to watch in 2021. They are:

Digitalization on Fast Forward: COVID-19 will have a lasting effect on the workforce and  the IT ecosystem supporting the new work-from-home model. Vertiv experts expect the  pandemic-motivated investment in IT infrastructure to continue and expand, enabling more  secure, reliable, and efficient remote work capabilities. Remote visibility and management  will become paramount to the success of these work-from-home models. Already remote  service capabilities have emerged to minimize the need for on-site service calls, and those  practices are likely to continue long after the pandemic. Any cautious steps taken early in  the crisis will be accelerated as the pandemic pushes into 2021 and organizations accept  these changes not as a temporary detour, but rather a permanent adjustment to the way  we work and do business. Over time, what is done in-person versus remotely will change,  and the change will be driven by customers looking to minimize their on-site presence. That  places a premium on connectivity, remote monitoring, data analytics, and even artificial  intelligence to make decisions.

Also Read: Vertiv Hosts LinkedIn Live to Discuss the Global State of the Colocation Market

“Recovery requires a change in mindset for most organizations,” said John-David Lovelock,  distinguished research vice president at Gartner, in a recent statement. “There is no  bouncing back. There needs to be a reset focused on moving forward.”

“India is undergoing a dramatic digital shift as a result of the current pandemic.  Organizations and governments are automating several business processes in order to  ensure business continuity while operating remotely. With disrupted supply chains,  increased data loads as a result of the lockdowns, and new remote working models, it is  imperative for companies to be equipped with the right kind of digital infrastructure capable  of supporting and growing business operations. As we progress into a new year,  businesses will need to build more resilient processes that are backed by strong new-age  technology, to ensure they are more insulated and prepared in the event of another global  crisis,” said A.S. Prasad – general manager, product & marketing, Vertiv India.

Bringing Large Data Center Capabilities to Small Spaces and the Edge: Today’s edge  is more critical and more complex, functionally an extension of the data center rather than  the glorified IT closet of the past. Cost and complexity have prevented implementation of  data center best practices in these spaces, but that is changing. Vertiv’s experts anticipate

a continued focus on bringing hyperscale and enterprise-level capabilities to these edge  sites. This includes greater intelligence and control, an increased emphasis on availability  and thermal management, and more attention to energy efficiency across systems.

Also Read: Honeywell & Vertiv To Enhance Sustainability For Data Center Operations Worldwide

The 5G Conversation Turns to Energy Consumption and Efficiency: In this early stage  of 5G planning and launches, the discussion has rightly focused on the ultimate benefits of  the technology – increased bandwidth and reduced latency – and the applications it will  enable. But, as many countries begin their 5G rollouts in 2021, and the early adopters start  to drive breadth and scale, the focus will shift to the significant energy consumption  increases brought on by 5G and strategies to deploy more efficiently and effectively. The  network densification necessary to fully realize the promise of 5G unavoidably adds to the  increased energy demands – estimated to be 3.5x more than 4G. The coming year will see  greater focus on managing that significant increase in energy consumption by exploring  more efficient products and practices.

Sustainability Comes to the Forefront: 5G is one piece of a broader sustainability story.  As the proliferation of data centers continues and even accelerates, especially in the  hyperscale space, those cloud and colocation providers are facing increased scrutiny for  their energy and water usage. The amplification of the climate change conversation and  shifting political winds in the United States and globally will only add to the focus on the  data center industry, which accounts for approximately 1% of global energy consumption.  The coming year will see a wave of innovation focused on energy efficiency across the data  center ecosystem. The benefits for data center operators are clear, starting with cost  reduction, compliance with existing and anticipated regulations, and the goodwill that  comes with establishing a leadership position in the global sustainability movement. Look  for important innovations across the data center infrastructure space and especially in the  area of thermal management.

Also Read: Vertiv Introduces High Performance, IP-Based KVM Receiver

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