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ITRenew 2022 Predictions: The Year Circular IT Will Go Mainstream

vmblog predictions 2022 

Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2022.  Read them in this 14th annual series exclusive.

2022: The Year Circular IT Will Go Mainstream

By Ali Fenn, president of ITRenew

In 2021, the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic manifested themselves in a host of new ways for all of us; from supply chain crises and rising costs, to increasingly urgent calls to action - both operational and legislative - to mitigate and reverse our collective contributions to climate change.

In the IT industry, just how far short of market needs long-established status quos fell became undeniable. Conversations about reimagining the life cycles of data center technology to drive market growth and pave the way for sustainable innovation went from theoretical, to practical, to imperative on a global scale.

In 2022, that growing appetite for innovation and reinvention will lead to the testing, validation and adoption of new models poised to redefine what digital transformation means. Experts and leaders in the data center and cloud infrastructure space will need to prepare for several key trends expected to emerge in what is destined to be another groundbreaking year.

From the studs to the hardware: how sustainable data centers will be democratized in 2022

We've seen a greater focus on sustainable data centers this year, but mostly around renewable energy use. We expect to see focus expand to the sourcing of materials used to construct and operate the data center itself - from the hardware and technology used within the buildings all the way down to the studs themselves. Furthermore, an increase in the democratization of sustainable data centers in general is a trend we see already in motion, with companies like ours making sustainable technology solutions affordable and accessible to the broader ecosystem. We expect to see an increasing number of organizations, of all sizes and across the globe, making buying decisions based on carbon reduction principles - tackling sustainability issues head on and making them central to their business growth strategies.

2022 will see massive growth at the edge

2022 will see continued explosion of the demand for digital infrastructure, driven by the massive march of data centers across the globe and beyond. Increasingly, infrastructure will be deployed in environments that don't look - or behave - like data centers. Every piece of real estate has the potential to be an edge data center - gas stations, solar farms, intersections, cell towers. Some may be in hot places, cold places, dirty places. And yet data will be created, used, and stored in all of these environments, as well as transported back to regional and core data centers. The challenges of managing data across this diverse topology of locations and interconnects will spawn continued innovation in physical and logical security, remote configuration, node deployment, workload orchestration, and hardware services. The accelerating demand for sustainability of digital infrastructure will catalyze optimization of power and capacity utilization, as well as workload orchestration in concert with grid effects and availability. It's a super exciting year ahead for innovators in this area.

2022: The year circular IT goes mainstream

We're at a tipping point as an industry, where incremental change is no longer enough. Unprecedented challenges like the current global chip shortage are not problems to avoid - they're opportunities for us to recognize the fatal flaws in the system and tackle them head on by enabling something new to emerge in their place.

In the past few years, circular economic practices have gained footholds in multiple industries. Early adopters have achieved successes that give those looking for proof clear confirmation that these new models deliver the financial, operational and environmental benefits they promise. In 2022 the competitive advantages realized in terms of time-to-market, operational efficiency, cost-effectiveness and more will inspire more businesses around the world to stop sitting on the sidelines and make circularity a core tenet of their business growth strategies. 

The current supply chain crisis creates the perfect opportunity to accelerate adoption of alternatives, like a shift away from the single-use nature of manufacturing across industries. Not only have supply chain delays increased delivery times for newly manufactured materials five- to ten-fold, the production of virgin materials creates far more carbon and negative environmental consequences than recertified ones. The IT industry can change that by taking a page from the certified, pre-owned car market. It's a fantastic example that illuminates the pathway for our IT hardware sector, and presumably others in 2022. In Q1, when the new car manufacturing ceased at many large scale plants, that industry hit its all-time high, registering a 36% spike in certified pre-owned car sales from February to March alone. I expect this trend will continue with off-lease and certified pre-owned making used cars available much ‘younger,' the significant majority of which are three years old or less.

Major enterprises and service providers that need compute and storage infrastructure for their data centers can follow suit with recertified, circular hardware - solutions optimized for critical workloads that utilize materials that offer best-in-class performance, are already manufactured, readily available and fully warranted and supported. As we continue to experience both technology shortages and accelerated demand for digital/smart/remote everything, circular IT offers the best path for companies committed to keeping their own time-to-value and financial growth plans on pace.

Those who embrace this behavior change will also find it comes with a host of business-imperative perks - new access to best-in-class technology, as much as 50% cost savings, and lower environmental footprints due to the avoidance of the carbon burden tied to from-scratch manufacturing.

We expect enterprises and services providers across segments will move up this curve quickly, and in bigger numbers. Common sense dictates it will happen as our collective mindset evolves due to the climate crisis, budgets shrink in the face of accelerated digital transformation demands, and the global supply shock continues to threaten projects and progress. Once the model takes hold, it can become mainstream very quickly, ensuring that even when these underlying crises are resolved, companies won't return to outdated sourcing methods.

This is indeed the silver lining of the last two years - the opportunity for global markets to understand the wide-reaching implications of our current IT practices and make positive changes that spur profitable, and sustainable global growth in 2022.



Ali Fenn 

Ali is President of ITRenew, where she leads creation of new circular data center models and sustainable technology solutions that are changing how the industry designs, sources, uses and reuses IT hardware. Her work with hyperscalers, service providers & enterprises worldwide is bringing the financial, carbon and materials advantages of open hardware and circularity to the broader market. A graduate of Yale and the London School of economics with 20+ years of cloud and enterprise biz dev expertise, Ali served as a UN Technology Innovations Labs advisor, founded Rethink: Circular, and has been named to the iMasons IM100 and as one of Silicon Valley Business Journal's 100 Women of Influence.

Published Thursday, January 06, 2022 7:35 AM by David Marshall
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