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Internet of Things Pushes the Future of Edge Data Centers

Internet of Things, Edge data centers

Growth of Internet of Things needs to mirror that of the data center.

Investment in the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) has been accelerating rapidly.  IBM recently announced that they would invest $3 billion into a new Internet of Things unit, Intel began breaking out revenue and profit for their IoT group, and GE set up its own lab to manage the industrial internet.   The worldwide market for IoT solutions is expected to reach $7.1 trillion by 2020, according to IDC.

The growth of the IoT market is astounding, but little has been made about the critical infrastructure required to support the explosion in IoT requirements expected over the next 5-10 years.  The reality is that the growth in the quantity and complexity of IoT devices needs to be matched by growth in the data center and information and communications technology infrastructure that will support the Internet of Things market.  IDC recently released a special study titled The Impact of the Internet of Things on Data Center Demand and Operation, which cites IoT as the main driver of data center expansion and that within just four years, the Internet of Things will require 750% more data center capacity than it does today.  

The research from IDC reminds us that enabling a reliable, available, and high-performing ‘connected world’ requires a significant investment in infrastructure, specifically in the data center facilities that will support these devices.  More importantly, it challenges the perception that the future of the data center is in massive service-provider facilities.  My view is that the future of the data center is at the edge in smaller, more scalable data center facilities located closer to consumers and IoT workloads.  In order to support the massive amount of data generated by the Internet of Things and deliver a quality user experience, data processing workloads will have to be located as close as possible to the sensors collecting that data.  I believe that this will require the data center model for the IoT to shift away from large, hyperscale computing facilities to a more distributed model of smaller, more frequent edge data centers.  

A recent example reported by Data Center Knowledge illustrated the need for edge data centers when discussing EdgeConneX’s work supporting Comcast’s cloud-DVR service:

Comcast R&D wanted to move its DVR to the cloud. The pilot program for Cloud DVR was out of Denver, but when serving Boston, for example, it brought the network to its knees. So Comcast asked EdgeConneX to evaluate options for bringing the content closer to the eyeballs.

The Comcast example illustrates why the edge data center is critical – user experience.  Hosting the Cloud DVR out of Denver resulted in poor performance and did not enable Comcast to deliver an effective user experience.  They needed to move the computing capacity closer to the user.  

Significant data center growth is required to support the Internet of Things, but the type of data center growth needed will move from large, centralized data centers to smaller, edge data center facilities.  We are already beginning to see this model take shape in some metropolitan areas, and the explosion of data center needs to support the Internet of Things should accelerate the adoption of this strategy.  Get ready for the future of the data center – at the edge! 

Do you believe that the data center industry is poised for massive growth due to the Internet of Things? Are the edge data centers the solution? Tell us what you think. We want to hear from you.

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