Data centers house servers, physical or virtual, that provide storage, communications, and networking to the growing number of networked devices, users, and business processes in general. The growing importance of data analytics—the result of big data coming from ubiquitously networked end-user devices and IoT alike—has added to the value and growth of data centers.

We can experience the impact of data center growth in our daily lives with our ever increasing digital footprints driven by online behaviors. Consider the “network effect” that occurs when we do an Internet search, watch a movie online, make online purchases or connect with friends over social networks. In our professional lives, many of us are also adopting new cloud-based business processes and applications. In the coming years, increasing amounts of end user traffic will be touching a data center. In 2015, 86 percent of the total end user/device traffic (per the Cisco VNI Forecast) touched a data center and this traffic share is expected to reach 94 percent by 2020.

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In our latest Global Cloud Index (GCI) Forecast 2015-2020, we estimate a near doubling of large hyperscale data centers in the public cloud space. A hyperscale data center is operated by one of the twenty-four operators, having billions of dollars in annual revenue across the categories of infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), or infrastructure hosting services, software as a service (SaaS), Internet, search, and social networking and e-commerce/payment processing (for more details on criteria please see the whitepaper, Global Cloud Index (GCI) Forecast 2015-2020). The number of hyperscale data centers will grow from 259 in 2015 to 485 by 2020. This is a clear indication of not only the data centers growth in general but a growing reliance on the cloud data centers with faster delivery of services and data, increased application performance, and improved operational efficiencies.

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Why is this hyperscale data center growth important, you ask. This is because of the consolidated share of data processing power these represent – indicating the faster adoption of public cloud relative to private cloud and traditional data centers. By 2020, 47 percent of the total server installed base across all data centers will be in these hyperscale data centers representing 68 percent of all data center processing power and carrying more than half (53 percent) of the total data center traffic.

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Data center traffic will continue to grow unabated in the foreseeable future, from 4.7 Zettabytes annually in 2015 to 15.3 ZBs by 2020. However, data centers themselves will undergo a big transformation with the evolution and deployment of new software-based architectures, cloud applications, more robust, faster, secure and intelligent networks. For further insights into these and other trends emerging from cloud and data center growth, please check out the Global Cloud Index (GCI) Forecast 2015-2020.

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Shruti Jain

Leader, Project & Program Management

X-Architecture Marketing, Enterprise Networking & Cloud