Death of the corporate data centre? Not just yet

Cloud is growing, but half of workloads are still run in enterprise-owned facilities and many organizations plan to use their own data centre for edge computing capacity, according to Uptime Institute’s latest survey. Here’s our take on the findings.


It’s been almost a year since Gartner VP David Cappuccio authored a blog post titled The Data Center is Dead.

“By 2025, 80 per cent of enterprises will have shut down their traditional data center, versus 10 per cent today,” Cappuccio predicted in that piece.

Andrew Lawrence believes that prediction may have been a little premature. “Rumours of the death of the corporate data centre have been exaggerated,” said Lawrence, executive director of research at the Uptime Institute.

He made that comment during a recent webinar on the Institute’s 2019 survey of about 1,000 data centre operators around the world. According to the poll:

  • 53 per cent of workloads are still run in enterprise-owned facilities
  • 52 per cent of enterprises have no plans to put mission-critical workloads into public clouds

Those numbers suggest cloud is growing, “but large enterprise data centres still form the bedrock of corporate IT,” said Lawrence.

Here are four more of the most important findings from this year’s Uptime Institute data centre survey:

Close to the edge

When it comes to edge computing, enterprises don’t want to stray too far from home, so to speak.

When asked how they plan to meet demand for edge computing capacity, the majority of those polled (42 per cent) said they will “mostly use our own private data centres and our own edge facilities.” That’s their top choice over other options such as collocation providers’ data centres or outsourced public cloud providers.

This figure shows “it’s still early days” for edge deployment but “over time, this will probably change,” Rhonda Ascierto, Uptime Institute’s VP of research, told the webinar audience.

Outages: common and costly

“Outages are not rare. They continue to remain very common in spite of all the efforts we all make to reduce them,” said Lawrence.

How common — and costly — are they?

  • 34 per cent of enterprises have experienced an “IT service outage or severe service degradation” in the past year
  • one in five rate their most recent outage as “serious” or “severe”
  • 10 per cent say their most recent downtime incident cost them more than $1 million in direct and indirect costs
  • 28 per cent say their last downtime incident cost them between $100,000 and $1 million (direct and indirect costs)

The survey also illustrates the importance of the network (and the implications of its increasing breadth and scope) to data centre operations:

One-third of outages were caused by network failures (equal to the percentage of outages caused by on-premise power failures). And one in five organizations said their most recent downtime incident affected multiple sites versus just one.

“So this is a warning call, a call to action that we need to make sure the networks are solid: the hardware is solid, it’s redundant, it’s fault tolerant,” Uptime Institute CTO Christopher Brown said during the webinar.

“It’s showing that we’re maturing as an industry, getting out of the single data centres and into multiple data centres, and here’s our new challenge.”

Help (still) wanted

“We all know the skills shortage is real. I think this shows it’s getting worse,” said Lawrence.

Here’s a look at the survey numbers in that regard:

  • 60 per cent of enterprises are struggling to find or retain data centre staff
  • 79 per cent say less than 10 per cent of their data centre staff are women
  • 54 per cent have no plan in place to increase female hiring at their data centres
  • 42 per cent (the biggest single chunk of respondents) don’t believe artificial intelligence will reduce their data centre staffing levels for at least five years

Despite trouble finding and keeping talent, organizations may be overlooking women as a source of elusive data centre skills, while perhaps underestimating the short-term impact of AI on their data centre workforce.

“It’s a perfect storm of unprecedented (data centre) growth but at the same time, an aging workforce that’s largely male dominated. So it’s not a diverse workforce to begin with,” said Ascierto.

Climate prep heats up

Although 30 per cent of data centre operators have not recently reviewed their climate change response plans, an equal number say they are, indeed, “re-evaluating technology selection based on shifting temperature ranges [and] water availability.”

So preparing for climate change and its impact on data centres seems to be inching closer to the front-burner — amid other priorities such as defining the edge, eluding outages and finding talent.

Image: cybrain/iStock

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