What you need to know

The volume of data created by businesses and consumers has grown exponentially, and is currently doubling every two years. Data centres are not just housing this ever increasing volume, but facilitating its interrogation in an increasingly sophisticated way (including artificial intelligence) to address business opportunities and problems which were previously unimaginable. At one end of the sector are the vast cloud servers operated by the likes of AWS, Microsoft, and Google, but there is also growing demand for colocation data centres. These range from wholesale colocation where tenants typically lease a fully-built data centre, to retail colocation where a customer leases space within a data centre, usually a rack, space within a rack, or a caged-off area. Hybrids of these two traditional definitions are also emerging.

With the imminent arrival of 5G, the Internet of Things (IoT) will amplify the number of connected devices beyond those currently humanly operated. Traffic in a data centre typically flows in three directions. Traffic entering or exiting the data centre (often called north-south traffic) will grow exponentially with the advent of the IoT. However, east-west traffic will also magnify - the network communications between servers and applications within the data centre, which typically account for 70% of total traffic. Moreover, many enterprise and financial services companies have traffic flowing between the multiple private and public clouds they manage.

Covered in this Report

A data centre (sometimes spelled datacentre) is a centralised repository, either physical or virtual, for the storage, management, and dissemination of data and information organised around a particular body of knowledge or pertaining to a particular business. A data centre is a dedicated space where companies can keep and operate most of the ICT infrastructure that supports their business, including the servers and storage equipment that run application software, and process and store data and content. For some companies, it might be a simple cage or rack of equipment. For others it could be a room housing a few or many cabinets, depending on the scale of operation.

The space will typically have a raised floor with cabling ducts running underneath to feed power to the cabinets and carry the cables that connect the cabinets together.

The environment is controlled in areas such as temperature and humidity to ensure both the performance and operational integrity of systems. Facilities generally include power supplies, backup power, chillies, cabling, fire and water detection systems and security controls.

Data centres can be in-house, located in a company’s own facility, or outsourced with equipment collocated at a third-party site. Outsourcing does not necessarily mean relinquishing control of equipment; it can include a facility to house that equipment.

A private data centre may exist within an organisation's facilities be maintained as a specialised facility. Under such a definition virtually every organisation has a data centre, although it might be referred to as a server room or a computer closet. This report is concerned with centres that are used for rental to other companies. These are typically referred to as a colocation centre (also spelled co-location, or colo). In this definition the data centre has equipment, space, and bandwidth available for rental to customers.

All values quoted in this report are at current prices unless otherwise specified.

The term billion refers to one thousand million.

It is also expedient to identify the terminology of data sizes:

  • 1000 megabytes = 1 gigabyte

  • 1000 gigabytes = 1 terabyte

  • 1000 terabytes = 1 petabyte

  • 1000 petabytes = 1 exabyte

  • 1000 exabytes = 1 zettabyte

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