Data centers fall out of favor as cloud drives shift in server trends

By Jonathan Crowl

Once pillar of the digital era, data centers now find themselves shrinking in both number and in square footage, as internet users shift toward alternative methods of storing their data.

According to CIO, those consumers are increasingly turning to rented server power. The main reason is connected to the rise in cloud adoption: Consumers no longer face the need for the infrastructure offered by a data center, and enterprise organizations have experienced a similar shift in needs. Cloud-based software, along with CRM and other cloud solutions, have different data needs than massive storage centers, and this is driving a change in the physical landscape of digital storage.

The number of data centers worldwide reached its peak in 2015, when there were 8.55 million centers worldwide. Instead of continuing to grow, that number is shrinking to 8.4 million this year. By 2021, the number is projected to be closer to 7.2 million centers — a decline of roughly 15 percent over a six-year period.

The total cause for these changes is more complicated than simply blaming the cloud, although this is a primary driver. In addition, a move from data centers to rented servers is a move driven by a desire for greater efficiency. The scalability of rented space enables better utilization, which thereby drives consolidation. New approaches to computing also have a role, as these computing practices alter the data needs organizations face.

In the past, major organizations would build massive data centers as part of their natural growth. Today, however, these same organizations have a considerable amount of technological infrastructure hosted on the cloud, which has downgraded their need for physical data storage. Companies that built these centers are abandoning them, or at least downsizing them, while emerging brands never build the centers to begin with.

As the trend of mobile-first evolution continues, the phasing out of data storage centers is likely to follow suit.