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The Impact on Data Center Services – Before and After COVID

The Impact on Data Center Services - Before and After Covid - Cable Management Blog

The COVID pandemic has impacted nearly every industry, and while some have been impacted negatively, others are thriving. The key to all of these things is the ability to adapt. Nowhere is this truer than in data centers. The impact of COVID on data center services has been significant, and those in this “essential industry” can’t work remotely for the most part.

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The Impact on Data Center Services - Before and After Covid - Cable Management Blog
The Impact on Data Center Services – Before and After Covid

The truth is, troubled industries like airlines, hotels, travel sites, and restaurants were not huge consumers anyway.

“The upside cases are actually higher than any of the drawdowns coming in from the troubled sectors,” said Sami Badri, Senior Equity Analyst at Credit Suisse said during a CAPRE presentation. “These troubled sectors were not big customers in the first place, whereas the newer industries that represent a large cash flow stream for data center services are flexing even larger than they ever have before. This is creating a new high-tide environment for demand for the overall tech sector.”

While the financial impact has been positive overall, it has created an increased demand, which has an direct impact on what data centers are and how they operate. What has that impact been, and what are data centers doing about it?

Increased Demand in Unusual Places

“Almost as soon as lockdown started,” David Issel, the asset manager at a Comcast data center known as a “headend” told us, “this place was running at 95%. Fans and our HVAC system was at capacity.”

The Work from Home or rather Work from Anywhere demands of COVID have increased the need for residential reliability and speed on a larger scale. What was evenings of surfing and streaming are now days filled with workers tethered to their home offices, computers, standing desks, and dependent on their routers and home WiFi in ways we never would have thought of in January of 2020.

Data Centers Services have been quick to respond and increase capacity. “Even though the components are getting smaller, the units themselves are getting larger,” Issel told us. “We’re using 23” racks instead of 19” racks, and that means it’s more important than ever to conserve space.”

The other issue? It takes people to add hardware and capacity to a data center, but only so many people can be present in the facility and still remain socially distanced and adhering to mask requirements. Keeping employees safe is a top priority.

Changing Attitude in Lagging Industries

“Some industries have never been well architected to handle work from home or organize a virtual workforce,” Badri told us. “Three of those sectors are healthcare, government and education. We’ve been hearing that government IT spending pledges alone are up more than 20 percent. Education budgets are also increasing and shifting up. Other categories playing catch-up include healthcare, which has been a very big pain point for the U.S.”

This includes things like telemedicine, schools that are either operating 100% virtually or at least offering distance options to students and parents alike. Higher education is struggling the most, as universities train staff, shift to online platforms, and prepare for an entirely new education platform.

While even the Federal government has been lagging in using technology, local, regional, and state governments find themselves even further behind. The question is whether these industries will continue to advance digitally or whether, as the impact of COVID inevitably recedes, the demand will recede with it.

The Need for Speed

Consumers and others often confuse bandwidth and speed. However, there is a need for both, as more people are online at the same time than under normal circumstances. This is bandwidth, or the capacity of the network to handle volume.

Speed is about how fast data can be delivered. Both are vital for consumers. Imagine a neighborhood populated with day traders whose income can be impacted by millisecond delays. That same neighborhood might be filled with school children doing school work online during work hours.

For data centers and companies like Comcast and other internet providers, it is about the ability to scale. “We’ve got plans for getting ahead, and we’re working on expanding HVAC and capacity,” David Issel told us about his particular headend.

This need for speed may mean that new data centers and headends need to be built in order for companies to keep up.

Coming 5G and Other Advancements

A digital revolution and a move to more remote operations, companies like Zoom, Slack, and other communication platforms were things many thought would take years to manifest. Due to COVID, this digital revolution has manifested in months instead.

But there was already a revolution on the horizon. The 5G and IoT revolution was already putting pressure on data centers to adapt and be ready for a new, faster normal. 5G is about more than just speed though. It makes a data center more flexible in more ways.

“The flexibility includes things such as the desegregation of the control and user plains of the network and also migration towards distributed baseband processing and the radio access network (RAN). In turn, this leads to opportunities for virtualization of RAN network functions and it enables the convergence of the RAN into the data center space,” Mike Wolfe, Vice President of Wireless Network Engineering at CommScope explained in a recent DCD article, How 5G will Affect the Structure of Data Centers?

“What this means is there could be a lot of smaller data centers, distributed geographically in such a way that’s going to make them a little bit more difficult to manage. Connectivity will be important in terms of how we do that,” Jamie Birdnow, also of CommScope shared in the webinar.

While it is safe to say that data center services will require huge changes to accommodate and enable 5G, there is still a lot that is unknown.

For example, we don’t know is how applications are likely to develop over a number of. Some things will not evolve as expected, and there are surprises. Autonomous cars will require far more sophistication than remote surgeries.

The key is to understand that data centers were already in a state of change, and the COVID crisis has only accelerated that.

The Bottom Line in Data Center Services

The data center industry has experienced a focus shift due to COVID, and as with any revolution during a crisis, it comes with challenges. That means the efficient use of space, the expansion of capacity more rapidly than planned, and employing other techniques to “future proof” data center services.

Virtual connectivity is a must,” Badri told us. “It’s no longer a debate. It’s now a case of survival and relevance and productivity. You’re starting to see permanent shifts.”

That speaks back to David Issel and Comcast, not only scrambling to catch up and expand, but to prepare for whatever tomorrow may bring.

A key to Issel’s success is his partnership with Louis and AnD Cable Products. Not only does his data center depend on their products and reliability, but they’ve also worked together to create custom hardware that is “perfect for the application,” Issel told us.

It’s these types of cooperation and efficiency, like the ZeroU Horizontal Cable Managers AnD Cable Products offers, which allow technicians to work more easily, increase the life of cables, and more.

If you want to “future proof” your data center services and you are looking for a physical hardware supplier that will be there for you as you expand and adapt, contact us at AnD Cable Products today. We’d love to talk about how we can best work together.

About the Author

Louis Chompff - Founder, AnD Cable Products, Rack and Cable ManagementLouis Chompff, Founder & Managing Director, AnD Cable Products
Louis established AnD Cable Products – Intelligently Designed Cable Management in 1989. Prior to this he enjoyed a 20+ year career with a leading global telecommunications company in a variety of senior data management positions. Louis is an enthusiastic inventor who designed, patented and brought to market his innovative Zero U cable management racks and Unitag cabel labels, both of which have become industry-leading network cable management products. AnD Cable Products only offer products that are intelligently designed, increase efficiency, are durable and reliable, re-usable, easy to use or reduce equipment costs. He is the principal author of the Cable Management Blog, where you can find network cable management ideas, server rack cabling techniques and space saving tips, data center trends, latest innovations and more.
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