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Key data center trends in 2022

In 2022, data centers will introduce a variety of new technologies. Expect a focus on hybrid cloud, solid-state storage, DCIM and sustainability measures.

2022 is shaping up to include familiar, predictable advancements but with a few surprises. On-premises data centers can expect to see improvements this year in security, energy management and power outages or power disruptions.

"People have learned they can't take some of those things for granted," said Greg Schulz, founder of technology consulting firm StorageIO based out of Stillwater, Minn.

Trends in data center software

Factors such as increasingly connected software systems and the continued rise of ransomware attacks have many companies moving toward a zero-trust security model.

"Software that allows organizations to map device interactions, set policies and find vulnerabilities will be a requirement for organizations," said Anay Nawathe, principal consultant at ISG, a research and advisory firm based out of Stamford, Conn.

In 2022, expect growing management challenges. Most organizations now manage hybrid cloud environments that span public, private and on-premises infrastructures.

"While cloud adoption did increase in 2021, it also brought a wave of repatriation," Nawathe said. "[Companies seek] software that can monitor and orchestrate workloads across public cloud and private cloud and on premises."

Many organizations also hope to bring the same capabilities cloud environments offer on premises. In 2022, software-defined infrastructure and AI-augmented automation can deliver many of the advantages of public cloud, such as flexibility, scalability and optimization.

It's not just about looking at a physical data center. … It's also: Where are your applications, and where is your workload running?
Greg SchulzAdvisory analyst, StorageIO

"It's not just about looking at a physical data center. ... It's also: Where are your applications, and where is your workload running?" Schulz said. When push comes to shove, organizations must know why an application isn't running properly, no matter where it is.

Hybrid environments present more than just horizontal challenges -- i.e., those that extend from the data center to the cloud. They also create vertical challenges up and down the stack, from the low-level facilities to the server, storage, network and different layers of software. Such multidimensionality makes it difficult to manage such environments with traditional management tools. Expect to see more advanced management tools in 2022.

Trends in data center hardware

The largest shift in data centers between 2021 and 2022 is that organizations have started to think about their infrastructure requirements in terms of their workloads. With most workloads remaining on premises for the foreseeable future, organizations must modernize infrastructure to handle modern data and workload requirements, notwithstanding supply chain and chip shortage issues. However, public cloud adoption is likely to continue to grow in 2022, so organizations should invest in proper network infrastructure to prepare for hybrid workloads.

"The computing pendulum is also swinging away from centralized hyperscalers in 2022, in the form of edge computing," Nawathe said. Organizations increasingly employ edge computing across a network of data centers to provide high-performance workloads closer to the end user. Such efforts are similar to the decentralization efforts of Web3.

The coming year also sees solid-state storage likely to become more ubiquitous.

"What I tell people is: Buy as much solid state as you can afford, but don't spend your whole budget on solid state," Schulz said. "Look at your budget, and look at what your apps are really doing. It is like the tiering discussions that were more common in the pre-cloud era."

Organizations continue to show interest in data center infrastructure management (DCIM) tools to monitor and measure their operations but not legacy products. However, vendors often use the term DCIM to describe many different technologies, which leads to confusion in the market. That, in turn, creates troubles in assessing or comparing ROI among the different options.

"[Organizations have a] pressing need to better manage infrastructure, and the pandemic has pushed the issue onto the front burner," said Mark Acton, a senior data center consultant based in the U.K. These businesses require effective infrastructure management tools that can operate remotely and deliver accurate energy reporting and management. The continued expansion of edge computing magnifies this requirement.

Trends in data center facility work

The adoption of hybrid environments has been a home run, which shifts both how operations teams work and who exactly does that work. Data center system admins and data center facility workers might see new or altered responsibilities.

Additionally, sustainability takes priority for more organizations and their data centers in 2022, particularly after last year's COP26 summit.

"Many organizations, particularly those in the EU, should expect investments in energy-efficient infrastructure equipment and other carbon-reducing solutions in their data centers," Nawathe said.

However, businesses must look beyond energy efficiency toward a future of energy effectiveness.

"You are going to expend some watts, so why not get more useful work per watt of energy consumed versus just trying to reduce the number of watts that you're using?" Schulz said. "Part of that ties in with the software but also with the hardware and the configuration of the data; there needs to be awareness so you can avoid flying blind."

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