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Server Technology 2020 Predictions: Powering the Next Revolution

VMblog Predictions 2020 

Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2020.  Read them in this 12th annual VMblog.com series exclusive.

By Marc Cram, Server Technology

Powering the Next Revolution

As we move into 2020, Smart Cities around the globe will increasingly rely on an ever-expanding deployment of IoT devices coupled with forthcoming 5G wireless infrastructure and edge computing to bring new levels of management, coordination, service and information to their citizenry. Machine-based AI will be applied at many levels and across many systems to provide insight, to optimize performance, and to improve efficiency of the systems that make Smart Cities truly smart, revolutionizing what we come to expect from technology in our daily lives.

Challenges for 5G

5G wireless technology is expected to deliver multigigabit throughputs and vastly reduced latency times. Prevailing thought within the industry is that meeting these goals will require new hardware in the form of edge computing infrastructure to be deployed around the globe, particularly in dense subscriber environments like most major cities. All of the touted benefits of 5G wireless come at a price. Greater amounts of radio spectrum are required to deliver the hoped-for bandwidth. The new frequencies assigned for 5G do not penetrate buildings and homes as easily as the existing 4G allocations do, so new techniques such as dynamic spectrum-sharing and directional beam forming are required to maximize throughput and ensure quality of service expectations are met. The effective distance for new frequency 5G cells on a watt-by-watt comparison to 4G is significantly reduced, rivalling today's Wi-Fi access points for usable coverage. This could require an order of magnitude more hardware and site locations to have 5G coverage that rivals 4G. Buildings will have to either be fitted with distributed antenna systems and 5G picocells, or rely on handoff of traffic to new Wi-Fi 6 infrastructure, or revert back to 4G spectrum when handsets are operating indoors. Recent statements from Cisco claim that over 80% of mobile usage happens by handsets operating indoors, meaning smartphone users will either be sorely disappointed when their phones transition from 5G to 4G when going inside or the carriers (and building owners?) will have to invest heavily in new infrastructure to meet the rising data demands.

Edge Computing

Edge computing will enable the promise of 5G to come into being. The one millisecond (1 msec.) latency times expected from 5G will require the support of enormous numbers of servers running open stack software to be distributed across the globe instead of in centralized cloud data centers. The anticipated growth of demand for mobile streaming video in 4K (and eventually 8K) formats alone is expected to drive the need for local storage of content. Ericsson predicts that the average time spent watching streaming video on cell phones is predicted to grow from 20 minutes a day now to 30 minutes or more. Ongoing growth in the creation, storage, processing, and consumption of digital information is driving change in the design of the infrastructure tasked with delivering that content. Whereas the effort of the past decade has focused around centralizing applications running in the cloud (SaaS, PaaS, etc.), those organizations tasked with being the pipeline delivering data to and from the cloud are seeing the wisdom of distributing some of the cloud capabilities out closer to the end points (the "edge") of data creation and consumption. Look for Packet, EdgeMicro, Vapor IO and others to benefit as a result.

AI

The race towards AI adoption across industries and applications has really only just begun. Corporations around the globe are looking to deploy AI in their quest to reduce headcounts, improve yield, and increase profits. Trucking companies use AI to optimize routing, and hope to eliminate drivers at some point in the future. Hospitals employ AI to improve diagnosis, read X-rays, perform surgery, and deliver an all-around better quality of care. Retail and online merchants utilize AI to make recommendations on products based on user preference and prior purchasing trends. Banks implement AI today to detect fraudulent transactions and support credit scoring. City and state governments are looking to AI to help determine traffic patterns, improve traffic flow, and deliver improved services to their citizens. These are but a few of the many possible areas where AI can and will be utilized in the future. Applications employing AI will continue to grow, as we seek greater insights and greater functionality from our digital assistants.

Renewable Energy

Looking ahead, many hyperscale data center operators are making the commitment to power their facilities with renewable energy, with wind and solar being two renewable energy sources that are likely to dominate the data center industry. Wholesale data center builders such as Digital Realty (DLR), colocation operators such as Equinix, and all of the major cloud providers (Apple, AWS, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, several Chinese firms) are committing to run their entire businesses, not just their data centers, on renewable energy going forward. By self-declaration, renewable energy adoption is no longer optional for hyperscale data centers. All of the hyperscalers will partner or pay for renewable energy infrastructure to accompany any new builds undertaken in 2020 and beyond.

Powering the Future Needs

Choosing the right solutions to power and connect the systems running AI applications that enable Smart Cities, 5G networks, IoT, and edge computing is critical. For widely dispersed networking, storage, and computational assets to work reliably, the underlying hardware needs to be continuously powered on, or else capable of being remotely managed and monitored. In short, an intelligent PDU can provide power monitoring, management, control, and environmental feedback, all in one device.  While there are several things to consider when choosing a data center PDU, keep in mind that power is the biggest recurring cost, and the right PDU in the rack can reduce complexity and increase efficiency. 

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About the Author

Marc Cram 

Marc Cram is director of new market development for Server Technology, a brand of Legrand. A technology evangelist, he is driven by a passion to deliver a positive power experience for the data center owner/operator. He earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Rice University and has more than 30 years of experience in the field of electronics.

Published Monday, December 23, 2019 7:32 AM by David Marshall
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