Industry Insights

6 Key Trends Driving Data Center Innovation

2018-11-23  |  6 min read 

Ever increasing demands for a connected world with instant data access continues to drive data center innovation. Data center operators need to embrace new technologies to support the response times and high bandwidth that fifth-generation wireless (5G), artificial intelligence, virtual reality, Internet of Things (IoT), and autonomous vehicles will require. 

The following are six key trends driving the data center industry:

1. Exploding data growth is the most apparent overarching driver in the communications ecosystem. While estimates from industry reports may vary, the explosion in data growth is evident. It was not too long ago that voice traffic dominated communications traffic. Now it is video, virtual reality, autonomous driving, and a host of new IoT apps & sensors. Data is exploding, becoming mobile, and will continue to grow exponentially.

2. On the flip side, the total operator capital expenditure (CAPEX) and operational expenditure (OPEX) spending on the network infrastructure to support all of this is flat or declining.  New infrastructure equipment flowing into this environment quickly becomes commoditized, and price points reduce by 20-30% a year.

3.Data center operators (or service providers) need to apply data center and cloud network principles and technologies to handle this challenge. These principles involve moving functionality into software using software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) - leveraging bare metal servers and cloud compute to scale with data center economics. This phenomenon has been true for the core network already, but the same virtualization will reach the radio access network (RAN) with the move from 4G to 5G.

The impact to major wireless infrastructure vendors is enormous. Previously, the bulk of their business was proprietary hardware platforms with large custom ASICs and excellent profit margins - not anymore. Their customers require them to leverage standard compute platforms, become more open, much cheaper, and dynamically reconfigurable. As a result, network equipment manufacturers (NEMs) are in a revolution with 10x-50x magnitude cost reductions.

4. Faster network speeds require new technologies. For example, to reach 400GE speeds in the data center, 4-level pulse amplitude modulation (PAM4) is required to effectively double the data throughput of non-return-to-zero (NRZ) signaling. Coherent optical data transmission will expand from low-volume niche applications, such as long-haul networks, where performance is more important than cost, to high-volume applications such as metro networks, data center interconnects (DCI), and even access networks.

New standards, such as GenZ and Cache Coherent Interconnect for Accelerators (CCIX), drive the incumbent PCI Express (PCIe) to faster speeds. PCIe 5.0 represents the latest in PCI standards using non-return to zero (NRZ) signaling; doubling the PCIe 4.0 speed from 16 gigatransfers per second (GT/s) to 32 GT/s. The PCIe 5.0 standard is on a fast track for development as the PCISIG (PCI Special Interest Group) — the standard body which controls the PCI Express standard — has tasked the team to complete the PCIe 5.0 standard in 2019.

5. The 5G New Radio (NR) standard promises to decrease latency to sub-milliseconds (approximately 1,000 times faster than 4G) to enable applications such as virtual reality and IoT. Data centers will need to move closer to the edge to support the requirements of 5G. For example, CORD (Central Office Re-architected as a Datacenter) combines NFV, SDN, and the Cloud to bring data center economics and cloud agility to the telco central office (CO). Mobile-CORD (M-CORD) is a solution based on CORD focused on addressing the needs of mobile networks. M-CORD is an example of multi-access edge computing (MEC), previously named mobile edge computing.

6. With the expectation of billions of devices connected to the internet, and the data-intensive real-time applications they will run, 100 gigabit Ethernet (GE) speeds which are common in data centers today will not be fast enough. In addition to planning the size and location of data centers, as well as considering a shift to virtualized network architectures, data center operators need to evolve the speed of their networks from 100GE to 400GE.

Keysight’s Data Center Infrastructure solutions can help you ensure that your data center is prepared to handle these challenges. We work hand-in-hand with industry standard committees to ensure that you have the test solutions you need to support the latest technologies such as 5G, IoT, and autonomous vehicles