Data Center Scalability in a Highly Unpredictable World
Elizabeth A. Fetter, President and CEO, NxGen Modular (2012 Directory)

We are in a tsunami of data traffic, and it's occurring in the midst of a recession in the United States and around the globe. The result is a perfect storm that will continue to drive demand for simple, fast, and, most importantly, scalable data centers.

In the past, data traffic increased on a very predictable trajectory. The increase in an organization's data center capacity meant large footprints - $50-100 million, tailor-made behemoths based on reliable predictions of what the future holds - completed before capacity was needed.

Today, data traffic is a constantly moving target. Forward-thinking IT executives must rethink conventional approaches to how they develop their data centers. Organizations must be nimble enough to quickly and inexpensively deploy reliable data capabilities.

Growth in Social Networking
In the data center world, we call this scalability, and few organizations are immune to needing the flexibility it provides. Why is this important now? With the growth in social networking, cloud computing, and big data, as well as the burgeoning use of mobile devices, companies that develop, support, and depend on these technologies are the obvious examples of the need for scalability.

It's not just the next iPhone 4s or Google+ driving data traffic, it's the need for speed. The relevant factor here is latency - the time it takes a single data packet to make a one-way or round-trip journey between a smart phone, tablet, or computer and its destination or source.

Even fiber optics and satellites can't change the fact that a smart phone user accessing data stored 50 miles away can get things done faster than someone accessing data 2,000 miles away. As a result, to remain competitive, technology companies must take a targeted approach to data center deployment.

Retail and Healthcare
Two industries experiencing unique brands of unpredictability are retail and healthcare.

For retail, there is no question that data needs will continue to increase. Inventory management and the prevalence of web sales have shifted significantly since pre-recession peaks. Furthermore, until there is a full economic rebound, no one can predict the future of data traffic or how it will impact infrastructure requirements.

When it comes to our healthcare system, federal legislation continues to have a major impact. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) already requires that most electronic medical records be stored for 10 years.

Further, the passage of "Obamacare" has introduced new patients to the system and certainly boosted patient data traffic. A single MRI image is about 100 megabytes; thus, even a moderate shift in access to healthcare means a massive shift in the need for data transmission and storage.

How are healthcare administrators expected to predict data traffic five years from now? The short answer: While the need to accurately predict data traffic has never been greater, it's become a futile exercise.

An analysis by NxGen Modular shows more than half of data center construction will be modular in the next 5-7 years. The reason: modular data centers (MDCs) streamline deployment by eliminating steps and moving construction to a controlled manufacturing environment. As a result, MDCs easily cut time to operation by 50 percent and deployment and operating costs by 40-50 percent.

Finally, MDCs can be scaled and managed independently, freeing businesses from being locked into data center decisions made years ago and allowing them to address the next data tsunami as it happens.