The "Apple-ization" of Data Centers - "it just works!"

“It just works” is a phrase that Steve Jobs first used at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in 2011. It was not an accident he picked this catchphrase and continued using it year after year to describe the products and services that Apple was unveiling. “It just works” expressed Apple’s mantra for delivering technology that solved problems with a minimum of effort or consternation on the part of the user.

It was a form of internal messaging too. Jobs’ demand to his engineering staff was “don’t tell me all the reasons it can't work, just make it work. And don’t make the technology the feature, make the solution the feature”. So, does the battle cry of “it just works” translate to the data center world?  Maybe it can. 

Invisible Infrastructure

In their 4SIGHT report, 451 Research named invisible infrastructure in data center spaces as something that ‘just works’. That’s because invisible infrastructure is dynamically available, operates and scales with individual requirements and is metered and invoiced accordingly with minimal intervention. Enterprises increasingly expect ‘utility-like’ consumption options for all their IT infrastructure needs, and service providers that can offer that flexibility will prevail in the long term.  How will these trends shape the need for data center space?

Optimize Cost, Performance, and Security

Businesses employ a combination of public and private cloud configurations (hybrid solutions) to continuously move IT workloads to the best venue to optimize cost, performance and security.  With this increase in options, complexity inevitably increases as well. Therefore, for infrastructure to make good on the promise of being invisible (aka it ‘just works’) it must seamlessly serve the needs of IT professionals, preferably with little to no intervention.   

But traditional data center infrastructure struggles to keep pace with the speed of business change.  Common architecture has seen storage, compute and cloud designed and managed in comparatively compartmentalized silos and service providers are responding to the challenge.  Nutanix, for example, offers an enterprise-grade, software-defined data center solution that natively integrates all IT resources. This is done by making storage, compute and cloud utilization virtually invisible. Their promise is to run any application while delivering true consumer-grade simplicity—a technology that practically runs itself.

To the extent that this is true, more and more workloads can migrate off-premise to facilities whether they are public or private clouds. As this happens, the need for enterprise data center space decreases.  At the same time, this migration to the cloud is an additional contributor to the need for service provider space. One of the headwinds to this trend is an increase in reverse migration, where some organizations are moving IT workloads back on-premise or to private clouds. Regardless, the net trend is still towards the cloud.   

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Sustainability

Sustainability is another dimension to this dynamic. Many enterprise data centers are housed in facilities that have not been optimized from an energy utilization standpoint. The industry common measure of energy use is the Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) which is the total amount of power consumed in the physical space of the data center divided by the power consumed by the IT equipment.

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Typical data centers have PUE ratios of 1.5 or higher, meaning that 50 per cent or more of the energy is used in the facilities rather than the IT equipment. Newer cloud service providers are reporting PUE ratios of 1.1. By moving more IT loads to these cloud service providers, enterprise data center space can positively contribute to their clients’ corporate social responsibility or environmental agendas.     

Simplicity has been the design principal behind Apple’s products and their “it just works” battle cry for years. If adopting simplicity as a guiding principle in data center operational design, maybe we should just do it. 

For more information on Cushman & Wakefield’s Global Data Center Advisory Group, contact us

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