Cloud Usage is Shifting and Data Center Density Increasing: Report

Cloud computing usage has shifted dramatically away from the public cloud toward a hybrid cloud approach. That was the major finding of the fifth annual State of the Data Center Industry research report from data center professional organization AFCOM, in conjunction with the Data Center World conference.

A jump of 26% in one year shows that the argument of whether it is best to go all cloud or keep IT systems on-premises appears to be over. Instead of one or the other, a compromise has been achieved in the enterprise of having some applications in the cloud and others remaining on-prem.

Despite a wave of propaganda to abandon on-premises systems in favor of vast and inexpensive cloud assets, IT managers, CIOs, and company boards appear to now favor a mix of cloud and in-house systems. In support of this, 58% of colocation and private data centers noted a shift away from public cloud options.

See also: What to Look for in a Cloud Migration Specialist

Data centers are here to stay

This is no doubt a relief to many IT managers who feared the finality of the “Go All Cloud, Young Man,” mantra. The steady decline of enterprise data center numbers in recent years does not seem to represent the eventual decline of the data center. It looks like the cloud and the corporate data center will find some form of peaceful co-existence.

Another factor is cost. Yes, cloud bulk storage is cheap. But there are hidden costs. If you frequently access the data, or want to migrate it somewhere else, hefty fees can apply. And then there is the price tag for security, as well as managing cloud data. Those who left security to their cloud providers, or let users offload data to the cloud without supervision soon paid the price – either in terms of serious security breaches, or spiraling monthly cloud costs as data usage spiked due to lack of management. 

This hybrid model means that data center managers are now determining which workloads would be best in the cloud, and which should be retained in-house. Due to compliance, security, the need to recoup hardware and software investments, and general economics, some applications are likely to remain within the data center for some time to come. But other workloads are easier and cheaper to host in the cloud. Placed there, they can take advantage of tight integration with other cloud applications. But the determination of which goes where has to be made organization by organization.

Data center density

Data center density has been rising for years. Not so long ago, vast rows of Windows boxes littered the floors or racks, each one hosting only one application. It was reminiscent of the warehouse scene at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie.

Fortunately, virtualization of servers, storage and everything else has greatly improved density, and the AFCOM report finds that trend continuing. In fact, it discovered that density is outpacing new data center growth. Just as data center managers are strategically moving certain workloads to the cloud, they are also packing in more storage and compute per square foot of floor space. Up to 62% of those surveyed said they are all set for new data center space for the next three years and will focus more on increasing the density of the racks they have.

This trend also factors into what and when to offload to the cloud. The denser things get, the higher the power and cooling budget. It’s a case of optimizing density to control power and cooling costs. When those begin to trend higher, it’s often a good time to review the cloud/on-prem mix and send more to the cloud.

Security, robotics, and automation 

As well as cloud usage and density, the report outlines implementation trends and buying patterns in such areas as servers, cooling, edge computing, storage, Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM), security budgeting, hiring, skills and training, energy consumption, and diversity. One additional finding is that more than 40% of respondents intend to deploy robotics and automation for data center monitoring and maintenance over the next three years. This has everything to do with digital transformation and having to do far more work and manage more storage with fewer employees.

Finally, security remains top of mind for many. 59% are particularly worried about ransomware while 35% are taking steps to deal with persistent Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS). After the recent Colonial Pipeline attack, zero trust technologies are also garnering more interest as organizations seek to create perimeter-less security models.

The State of the Data Center Industry research report was made available at a virtual event last week, and included more detail on the findings.