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5 Data Center Trends to Watch in 2021

Posted on February 10, 2021 by Neche Veyssal

The new year is underway, but because of the ongoing pandemic, some of the trends and issues that data center operators tackled in 2020 are carrying over in 2021. That includes the acceleration of digital transformation projects and providing technology and support for a remote workforce. 


What else is in store for the data center industry in 2021? Let’s explore some of the top data center trends for the new year. Industry analyst firm IDC and others predict that these issues will be front and center for data center providers and operators. 

1.    Cloud adoption accelerates. By year’s end in 2021, 80% of enterprises will set up processes that will allow them to shift to cloud infrastructure and applications twice as fast as before the pandemic, IDC predicts. IT leaders must do so for competitive reasons and to make sure their organizations are more digitally resilient, the analyst firm said. 

2.    Growth of edge data centers. Analyst firm Forrester Research predicts that edge computing will reach an inflection point in 2021 that will increase adoption. In fact, by 2024, the number of servers deployed at the edge will double to 4.7 million, according to analyst firm Omdia

Telecommunications companies, cloud service providers and enterprises are driving the growth of edge data centers, which enable fast performance because compute power and data storage are located closer to users and machines. Today, early adopters are using edge computing for video content delivery, automated manufacturing and retail store management, Omdia said. In the future, new applications such as automated vehicles and augmented and virtual reality will further drive adoption. 

One of the key developments that will fuel growth in edge computing in 2021 is the ability for organizations to build private 5G networks, which are networks dedicated to a specific business or location, such as a warehouse, shipyard or factory, Forrester Research said. “Business infrastructure, such as warehouse robots and factory machine tools enabled by the Internet of Things need local processing and low-latency networks. Edge computing and 5G serve these, respectively,” wrote Forrester Vice President and Research Director Glenn O’Donnell in a blog post

3.    Managing data centers remotely and an increased shift toward autonomous IT operations. Data center providers and enterprises that manage their own data centers discovered the importance of remote data center management and monitoring tools during the pandemic, according to a recent story by Data Center Knowledge. To ensure social distancing and employee safety, organizations are expected to increase their adoption of remote management tools in the new year and into the future. 

Nearly half of the companies recently surveyed by IDC said they plan to invest in remote monitoring tools for their data centers, according to another Data Center Knowledge report. 

IDC also predicts an increased shift toward autonomous IT operations. Today, there are emerging AIOps (Artificial Intelligence for IT Operations) tools that use analytics and machine learning to automate IT operations and processes. IDC predicts that by 2023, there will be an emerging cloud ecosystem that will serve as the underlying platform for IT and business automation initiatives.

4.    Operate more sustainably. In recent years, data center providers and operators have increased their efforts to source renewable energy for their facilities and to reduce power consumption by deploying more efficient hardware. In fact, by 2025, IDC predicts that 90% of global 2000 companies will mandate reusable materials in IT hardware, require lower energy use and develop carbon neutrality targets for their data center providers’ facilities. 

5.    Data Center Spending Will Rebound. Global spending in data center infrastructure declined 10% in 2020, but it’s expected to grow 6% to $200 billion in 2021, analyst firm Gartner predicts. Larger enterprise data center operators are expected to resume expansion plans, while hyperscalers are expected to continue their global expansion plans due to their continued investments into the public cloud. “Much of the reduced demand in 2020 is expected to return in 2021 when staff can physically be on-site,” Gartner senior research director Naveen Mishra said in a press release