Data Center and Technology Predictions 2023
By Chris Sharp, CTO, Digital Realty
Predicting the future is hard. Predicting the future of technology and data center technology is even harder. Technology – by design – evolves so rapidly, often in response to our ever-changing needs as a species. Take the global health pandemic, for example. Under normal circumstances, producing a vaccine can take anything from ten to 15 years. The development of the COVID-19 vaccine took under a year, highlighting the power of technology and innovation.
2022 was an interesting year for advancements in data center technology. Despite being a year of both recovery and rediscovery, technological innovation remained strong; whether it was improvements in our understanding of AI and its relationship with consciousness, or breakthroughs in gene-editing technology. Underpinning most of this technological innovation is the data center industry: the central nervous system of the digital economy. And with 2022 ending, it feels like a good time to look at what 2023 – and beyond – could have in store for technology and data centers, as well as how macro trends – such as geopolitical conflict and ongoing concerns for energy security – could affect it.
Data centers will wave ‘goodbye’ to fossil fuels in favour of renewable alternatives
Renewable energy in data centers is something that the data center industry has been moving towards for many years now. However, concern over energy security – an issue that really came to the fore this year because of the ongoing conflict in Eastern Europe – has sharply prompted the industry to closely examine its partial reliance on unrenewable energy sources, like diesel or gas.
There are lots of thriving data center hubs around the world, like London, Singapore, and Virginia, that still have so much growing to do but are constrained by energy, both in terms of access and supply. That’s not to say that we don’t plan how much capacity we need in advance. When we look to expand, there are several factors we take into consideration. Planning for future capacity needs is one of them, but we also look at, for example, aligning with the grid’s capacity and whether we can get long-term supply agreements in place. However, for these hubs to reach their full potential and keep up with the demand for digital services globally, the industry needs to start looking at alternative ways to power its facilities, which ultimately means adopting a hybrid model and having the ability to go off grid and become ‘decentralized’.
It sounds unrealistic now, but if you examine history, it’s not. For instance, it wouldn’t have been uncommon for a factory in the 1920s to have been powered by a single steam engine l
Telecommunications service, Ericsson, says it’s commited to leading the Open RAN industrialization by introducing compatibility for open fronthaul in its Cloud Radio Access Network (RAN) and radio portfolios.
This move comes after the company worked with the industry through the O-RAN Alliance to define the next generation open fronthaul interface. With over one million radios already deployed that are hardware ready for the next generation of open fronthaul technology, Ericsson aims to bring performance at a mass scale to Open RAN.
The company will also release new radio platforms this year, providing a complete Open RAN-ready offering across its Massive MIMO and remote radio portfolios. In addition, support for open fronthaul will be introduced in Ericsson’s Cloud RAN portfolio starting in 2024.
Executive Vice President and Head of Networks at Ericsson, Fredrik Jejdling, stated that the company is enabling an open and growing ecosystem of innovation with its customers and partners. Ericsson is leading the industrialization of the three pillars of Open RAN: cloudification, open fronthaul, and open management for network programmability.
Ericsson has already formed agreements with Google Cloud, Dell Technologies, and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) for its Cloud RAN. Jinsung Choi, Chair of O-RAN Alliance, expressed his anticipation for future innovations in the market and expects Ericsson to maintain its active involvement in shaping O-RAN’s evolution.
ocated right outside, essentially acting as a ‘microgrid’ for the factory. Just imagine that but on a much broader scale, and instead of steam engines, think about renewable power, such as solar, wind, nuclear, and hydropower. We already do this to some extent now, with more than 900 megawatts of solar and wind energy under contracts in the US alone. But it won’t be long until fossil fuels take a back seat permanently, and data centers become self-sustaining in terms of power, able to switch on and off the grid at the flick of a switch.
The explosive adoption of data-driven technologies will lead to the mainstream emergence of innovative cooling methods
The use of data-heavy technologies like AI and IoT continues to ramp up across the globe. In fact, since 2021, 86% of CEOs reported that AI is considered a ‘mainstream technology’, and 91.5% of leading businesses invest in AI on an ongoing basis. Whether its live sentiment analysis tracking in the advertising industry or the use of complex algorithms by social media companies, businesses are seeing tangible value from the use of AI. And if businesses keep seeing value, usage is only going to increase, which means more intensity and more distribution geographically.