Whether it’s compact edge deployments or massive hyperscale developments, large footprints or single sites, the data center landscape continues to evolve as demands from new applications push capabilities to their limits. To dive into this topic, Metro Connect 2020, an event exploring the U.S. metro communications infrastructure market, offered multiple days of panels and discussions to help industry executives stay up to date on trends, challenges and changes. 

One panel, which took place on Wednesday, February 12 and was titled “The Evolving Landscape of Data Centers”, featured members and founders of The Independent Data Center Alliance (the IND-DCA) among others. The panel featured Tom Brown, President and CEO of DataGryd; Michael Morey, President and CEO of Bluebird Network and Bluebird Underground Data Center; and IIissa Miller, CEO of iMiller Public Relations, President of NEDAS and Co-Founder of the Independent Data Center Alliance along with Hugh Carspecken, CEO of DartPoints

All participants offered their unique and insightful perspectives about the current data center market (Brown coming from the eminent New York City hub and Morey bringing a background helping rural and underserved markets throughout the Midwest and Carspecken of the edge and tower data site deployments) this group offered critical observations from operators across the U.S. market. 

To start, the group discussed what exactly a data center is in today’s world. With ever-changing needs, there come a plethora of data center definitions that span hyperscale, micro, wholesale, colocation, cloud, interconnection and more. While the panelists discussed hyperscale facilities as exceeding 5,000 servers and 10,000 square feet, on the other end of the spectrum, the edge and micro facilities clearly play a different role for latency and minor workloads ranging from 50 to 150 kilowatts of capacity. 

Regardless of size or location, the panel established that evolution is being driven by customer perspective. Every customer is different in terms of IT goals, financing, workload size and stage of IT development. The discussion touched on how connectivity that seamlessly reaches to the edge is enabling long-term customer goals of autonomous car capabilities, as well as how customer decisions that center around cloud and security are shaping IT decisions for verticals like banking and healthcare.  As Moderator, Miller urged attendees to consider how they market and message their facilities to their customers. “Customers don’t know to ask for an edge data center or hyperscale data center, they just know their requirements and assess providers on their ability to support their needs.” 

Where originally hospitals and other healthcare companies were maintaining data in their own facilities, the industry is evolving at such a rate that those entities no longer feel comfortable with their own on-premises solutions. Even further, decisions are being made based on individual application requirements for security and availability, reshaping the colocation and cloud demand. In other verticals like gaming and content, it’s all about experience. For this world, the micro edge data center creates speed and low latency that suits a different kind of need from healthcare and banking. 

All in all, the industry is defined by constant shifts, expansion, consolidation and individualized needs that drive a range of solutions. To deliver these wide-ranging and diversifying solutions, the IND-DCA and its members collectively seek to underscore the enduring value of one often overlooked facet of the market: smaller data center operators and colocation providers. 

The truth is, while big names and large entities dominate the space (and certainly can deliver on customer needs), the smaller operator represents a hidden gem in the market. Not only do smaller, more independent players offer the same data center basics as the big guys, they also offer a unique value add in the form of closer, more personal relationships and service-focused offerings that larger players often don’t have the bandwidth (or the desire) to deliver. At the same time, smaller operators offer proximity to up-and-coming or underserved markets that REITS may stay away from, meaning that edge capabilities and local data can be enhanced and kept local for speed and latency benefits. 

As a strategic consortium of independent data center and carrier hotel operators engaged in joint go-to-market initiatives, the IND-DCA is on a mission to showcase the value of smaller operators and increase their market share in an industry dominated by giants. By marketing as a collective and showcasing the strengths of operators with smaller footprints, members of the IND-DCA reach potential buyers outside their individual service areas, amplify the strategic nature of their respective locations and provide a greater network of options for buyers.

It’s clear that as the world changes and becomes even more data-driven, showcasing the assets and capabilities of smaller data center operators (such as Bluebird Network and DataGryd) will become more vital in order to maintain competition and offer unique opportunities to buyers. Through reaching new audiences like the one at Metro Connect, the IND-DCA and its members bolster the small data center operator. In turn, by bringing together global data center providers and showcasing their global reach, proximity and accessibility to data center customers, the future of data center selection and operation may change for the better. 

To learn more about the IND-DCA, please click here.