Ahead in the clouds at DataCloud 2015

Thursday, June 11 2015

Monte Carlo at the speed of fiber.

The Monaco F1 Grand Prix had barely finished when DataCloud 2015 pit-stopped at the Grimaldi Forum. Around 1500 drivers from the cloud and the data center industry – the cloud factories that your digital life calls home – took their place on the grid. New technology was abound but so was the the sharing of insights and strategy. Returning home, through paradoxically cloudless skies, I took stock of a few inspiring days:

Maintaining data center to data center speed was high on the agenda

You are right, TSIC isn’t a data center operator. Our perspective comes from serving customers in 300 data centers around the world. Of those, 200 are full points of presence, if you like, ‘on/off ramps’ to our global fiber backbone. And as I’ve observed before, a data center without connectivity is as useful as a chocolate tea pot.

Success or failure in less than the blink of an eye

A blink lasts between 300-500ms, half a second. Yet the maximum roundtrip (latency) between any of the data centers we directly connect is <300ms. Wherever in the world. And that includes new sites with 365 Data Centers, Cyrus2, Digital Realty, Equinix (9 new sites), Netrality, and Virtus data centers. But that’s just one backbone. At the conference we shared Dyn.com’s big data analysis of IPv4 shows the top 10 global internet backbones.


Will digital demand outstrip data center supply?

The question is real and was debated heavily. Huge growth in consumer services, largely driven by smartphone usage, means that an estimated 3/4 of all data stored in ‘cloud factories’ is owned by private individuals rather than companies. An implication of this is that data centers must stop being ‘sexy’ and over concerned with demonstrating the latest technology and go massive in scale. In fact Microsoft’s Christian Belady, VP for its global data centers said “it’s about industrial scale, no longer projects”. Microsoft used the conference to challenge its suppliers to become industrial logistics partners.

Other developments of the ‘Big Five’ mega-content companies were also picked up. Notable was Apple’s recent decision to construct a mega-data center in Denmark.

It’s about power not packets: greener cheaper

It’s well understood that data centers account for a significant part of the 2% of the global energy (IDC, 2014) consumed by the internet. It’s also often quoted that a single data center can consume the same power as a medium sized town. With power being typically more than 50% of the total cost of a data center, it was no surprise that many DataCloud exhibitors offered efficiency solutions and new techniques for the data center itself. Cooling was expected but now there is increasing emphasis on achieving efficiencies with software processes.

It is very comforting to see that the data center industry is increasingly taking a cradle-to-grave assessment that includes its environmental as well as business impact. Key representatives for the second year running have been those promoting sites where industrial scale data centers can find low cost 100% green energy in abundance. For new sites, location-location-location is about abundant cost effective green power. It’s increasingly an assumption that the fiber, to transport the data packets, will follow.

Packets not power: distribution and storage

I met representatives from Sweden and Finland offering new data centers and sites with low cost 100% hydroelectric power. With long-haul and metro data center to data center connectivity now at 100G and evolving further, it’s more efficient and effective to transport and store packets rather than power. Power losses over long distance are typically 30%. So why not go where the power is first? Even from 65N there is still an 800m population within 50ms. It’s already proven too, with real time apps are already being run in full web-scale from the ‘Node Pole’ area.

Data centers are about to become riskier

Data centers have long been synonymous with redundancy and risk aversion. Two of everything. But several DataCloud commentators suggested that the rise of software automation and an increase in scale will reduce the need for this overtly risk-averse approach. Outages will be less of an issue as software balances activity across multiple sites. That makes good sense. The implication is increased reliance on high performance connectivity. Given the end of online-off line life and the rise of connected living, some things don’t change I guess!

But these are just six key observations. What did I miss? What are your key points to share as a cloud factory driver?

Our CTO Mattias Fridström gave a really interesting presentation on the rising expectations on communication service providers including data centers. You’ll find it here below:

The end of online life
from TeliaSonera International Carrier