I really think the internet of everything or as we all call the IoT (Internet of Things), continues to surround us by smart devices and smart systems that are constantly sensing, monitoring, listening, and watching everything we do.

Many of these systems are also constantly learning from what they sense, see, and hear in their environment, as well as from the feedback they receive from other smart devices and systems.

This opens the door to some really helpful insights in life and business. Because so many enterprises recognize the value of data in today’s connected world, data centers are a growing sector of the technology space.

What can we expect in terms of data in the coming years? IDC says by 2025, 6 billion consumers will interact with data every day—and, in case you’re wondering—that’s 75% of the global population. Also, in 2025, each connected person will have at least one data interaction every 18 seconds, and IoT devices will create more than 90 zettabytes of data.

IDC defines three primary locations where digital content is being created: the core (defined as traditional and cloud data centers), the edge, and endpoints (including IoT devices). Together, this makes up the global datasphere.

Now that leads me to another question, how are we going to keep up with the storage demands stemming from this relentless data creation? Cloud provider data centers are going to play a huge role in keeping up with data creation going forward.

IDC suggests cloud data centers are becoming the new enterprise data repository, and, by 2025, 49% of the world’s stored data will reside in public cloud environments.

It might be helpful to consider for a moment what data centers may look like and how they may operate in the future. CB Insights published a whitepaper about the future of data centers earlier this year and it’s worth noting some information. Data centers are often constructed in areas with dense fiber networks.

They’re typically using air-based cooling and heating systems to keep equipment at the right temperature.

They’re also typically plugged into the grid, and most storage device shipments to enterprises are HDDs (hard disk drives).

What’s next for data centers? CB Insights suggests more data centers will be built in places that have cool, stable climates. This can save a ton of energy costs, theoretically.

We’re definitely seeing a lot of data-center action in the Nordic region. Data centers of tomorrow will probably also migrate to one of two extremes in terms of size: either smaller or larger.

In my last column I looked at hyperscalers and the trend toward mega data centers. Hyperscale facilities will benefit from economies of scale, but micro data centers have benefits too. For instance, in some cases, they’re actually portable.

Liquid cooling and “lights out” operation will also start to become more prominent, because data centers are going to be looking for ways to increase energy efficiency.

Lights-out data center operation represents more than energy efficiency. It’s also about maximizing automation within a data center, thereby minimizing human access.

Advances in robotics, artificial intelligence, and remote monitoring are going to make lights-out operation more common in the future. In fact, unstaffed data centers may one day be the norm.

One benefit of this will be reduced opportunity for human error, and this can also potentially lead to better security in data centers. CB Insights also predicts that tomorrow’s data centers will rely more heavily on SSDs (solid state drives) versus hard disk drives as the pricepoint falls on SSDs.

Looking even further out toward the horizon, to the long-term future, we may be looking at off-shore data centers as real estate becomes tight on land. CB Insights suggests data centers may eventually start harnessing residual heat and redirecting it to the surrounding community.

It’s also worth considering the possibility that there may no longer be data centers like what we’re accustomed to today. What if, for instance, data storage and computational resources are crowdsourced in the future through peer-to-peer device networks?

Hypotheticals like this are interesting to consider because it gets me and I hope you—the reader—thinking about what is possible, and isn’t that what we do as technologists to think about the near-term and long-term future.

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