Will IoT and edge drive a rebirth of the datacentre?

The term Internet of Things (IoT) was coined back in 1999 by British technologist Kevin Ashton, but it is only now in 2020 that such a network connecting people to the objects around them is finally becoming widespread.

Entering the new decade, the installed base of IoT connected devices stands at around 26 billion, which is predictedto more than double that by 2025. As it matures IoT will increasingly help us make more intelligent decisions based on the record-breaking amount of data we are generating, across all sectors of business. Organisations will have to implement the most effective strategies, possibly even changing their infrastructure, to make the best use of this data in order to be competitive in this new data-connected era.

Edge’s impact on the datacentre 

Using edge computing, bringing computing power and storage capabilities closer to where the data is collected, enables organisations to analyse their data and use it to shape decision making in near real time.

From a business user point of view, the edge could be anything, from a ship to a temporary site or event, for example, riverbed sensors monitoring for flood levels require immediacy to provide effective warning. However, from a datacentre or colocation provider perspective, making IoT and edge instances work may require more than an infrastructure change, but a shift in mindset as well.

Traditionally these providers have owned or rented facilities in specific locations to serve business hubs and as such have not moved their facilities closer to where customers are.

Managed service providers might extend their service remotely, but for the datacentre provider, it comes down to the economics of location, latency and capacity. In many cases, it is simply hoped that the colocation provider’s infrastructure footprint will do the job. This might indeed be the case for some specific instances, but this is largely geographic luck and hardly forms the basis of a sustainable edge colocation business model. Instead, success will require the mobilisation of communications and compute in an effective, responsive and economic instance, which in many cases will be time-bound.

Getting closer to the edge

The impact IoT and edge computing will have on the datacentre depends on the intersection of several technology aspects and purchasing behaviour dynamics. First of which is the uptake of IoT, which is still heavily verticalized and centred around a few high-potential use cases, such as healthcare, retail and manufacturing. Another consideration is the increasing maturity of 5G – while the technology has been launched to the consumer market, the platform to enable this next advancement is faltering over security and coverage concerns.

The adoption of data analytics will also have a part to play. Again, there is the widely accepted attitude that data analytics represents tremendous potential. However, mirroring the uptake and optimisation of IoT, the opportunity around analytics is limited to verticalized applications.

Other dynamics that will affect the future of the datacentre include the viability of regional colocation for the edge and the expansion of customer data lakes – the maturation of customer data lakes curated outside of cloud boundaries with the potential to support edge applications before wider consolidated publishing in the cloud.

The 2020s datacentre 

We will have to wait and see how new technologies like 5G and shifting colocation business models, along with changing customer behaviour and IoT will drive the rebirth of the datacentre.

The proliferation of IoT and use of edge will certainly have an impact on business overall, but the degree to which these technologies will affect the datacentre and colocation market specifically depends largely on the interplay between several elements that will shape the environment into the 2020s.

About the Author

Marion Stewart is COO at Pulsant COO. Marion is an operations leader with more than 20 years of industry experience. Throughout her career she has gained expertise in building and leading successful multi-disciplinary teams and transforming operational delivery models across organisations to deliver world-class customer experience efficiently and in line with industry best practice. This extends to enabling businesses to deliver best-in-class customer services around public and private cloud. 

Featured image: ©Peera