In 2040, the world will need a lot more computing power as the amount of produced data increases exponentially. Increased use of services like video streaming, augmented reality, and internet of things that require low latency connections, creates a huge need for processing power that needs to be as close to the end-users as possible. More data centers will be needed, and they won’t look the same as they do now. The industry has developed with leaps and bounds and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.

Present data center ecosystem consists of three players – hyperscalers, colocation providers and on-premise data centers. The amount of hyperscaler data centers is quite low, as these are “megasites” with huge amounts of computing power and capacity. They are located in remote places far from end-users and cost hundreds of millions to build. Colocation data centers offer smaller capacity ranging from 10-100 megawatts, and on-premise data centers that are used privately by companies have capacity of 1-10 megawatts. On top of the three main players there is also an edge layer that is mostly utilized by hyperscalers to push some of the processing closer to the end-users.

In present state, the reliability is infrastructure dependent. This means that most of the data center investment goes making sure that each part of infrastructure is made redundant at least once. Failure is feared and avoided at all costs. Risk aversion is one of the obstacles that stand in the way of reaching future state.

Future state of data center ecosystem

In the future state of the data center ecosystem, the edge is the new data center. The data centers are small, cheap and everywhere. Instead of a physical location, data center is more like a virtual network of many interconnected data centers. With the edge, failure is embraced, not feared. If one data center faces a failure, the network automatically moves the workloads to another center in the network. The multitude of data centers makes redundancy a waste of money, as the network itself works as the redundancy. This saves costs and time as there is no need to invest and build redundant power supply – the data centers will just be serviced on recurring schedule.

What makes the future state possible are the enablers. Those are new technologies, like artificial intelligence, 5G connectivity, and improved nimble software and networks. The open-mind of younger generation moving into managerial roles is also an enabling factor. More technologically savvy people are open to challenge old ideas about what the data center should look like and how it should operate.

The “megasites” with huge computing capacity will still exist in the future data center ecosystem, as well as colocation and on-premise data center. They will only have a smaller role as the edge takes on the bigger role as the main processing location. The future edge could be considered to become a virtual megasite.


This blog post is based on the presentation that Kevin Slover gave at Ficolo The Air Sneak Peek Party on 8.5.2019.