The Network Edge is on the Tip of Our Tongue as We Discuss 2019 Data Center Trends

Rob Johnson • December 04, 2018

For several years now, Vertiv has undertaken an interesting experiment as we head toward the new year.

We have gathered many of our leading experts on the data center space and solicited their thoughts on the trends they expect to influence activity and conversation across the industry. Their instructions are limited and their responses, not surprisingly, wide-ranging. We assign no timetable to their forecasts, which leads to predictions that may strike some as science fiction and others that may seem rather, well … predictable. We value every suggestion, and the project has become more than an exercise. It is a useful idea-generator. 

The Network Edge is becoming the core of the industry 

As I reflect on this year’s forecast, it seems to me our experts are focused more on near-term trends. There was a heavy emphasis on innovation at the edge of the network, and why not? The edge was a $1.47 billion market in 2017, but it is projected to grow to $6.72 billion by 2022. The network edge, ironically enough, is the center of the data center universe, and that isn’t changing anytime soon. Predictions of more intelligent systems and technologies designed to simplify edge computing seem certain to come true. Vertiv itself is seeing to that

The data center workforce will also shape the landscape 

Our experts also anticipate a shift in the way we think about our data center workforce, with technology helping to preserve institutional knowledge as we transition to a new generation of IT leaders. And we expect those leaders to come from non-traditional backgrounds, with data center companies taking a more active role in training. This reflects the challenge many traditional IT educational programs have found in keeping pace with innovation and change in this industry. 

We also expect innovation in the power and cooling spaces and increased attempts to normalize data center builds. We’ll talk more about all of these in future blog posts. 

How will the Internet of Things and 5G Networks shape the IT infrastructure? 

Some broad industry and consumer trends – things like the Internet of Things and the rollout of 5G networks – influenced our thinking and are drivers for these trends in the data center infrastructure. That’s also true of some of the interesting ideas that didn’t make our final list. 

For example, there was some discussion about increased use of localized clouds, especially at the network edge, and there is momentum for these models in parts of the world. We talked quite a bit about ongoing innovation around batteries, and everyone agrees lithium-ion will continue to establish a foothold in the data center – with other technologies not far behind. Fuel cells, DC power and microgrids all were part of a healthy, inspiring discussion.  

We even had someone ask if the time had come to rethink the form factor of the standard 19-inch rack, and it’s a great question. Rack size has been unchanged for decades. What might we accomplish if we abandoned the traditional parameters limiting server size and dictating power and cooling decisions? These are the types of questions I’m proud to see our people asking, even if industry inertia is overwhelming. We should always be willing to ask, “What if?”  

I would love to hear from you on what you expect from our industry in 2019 and beyond.


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