Global network carriers, content providers and data center operators all came to Denver for two days of panel discussions on subjects such as the future of data networking, data center growth and mobile content delivery.

The keynote speech started with an introduction from Bode Francis, Manager of Global Edge Operations at Google. Bode reminded the audience that computing over the past 20 years has evolved with its greatest influence being cloud consumption. Applications today, whether for entertainment, media or business, have shifted to a cloud consumption model. End users, on either a fixed or mobile device, have come to expect a high level of service and availability without any regard to how it is delivered. Yet, on the backend, most content providers are supporting this with some form of cloud to maintain these high service expectations of consumers.

Additional speakers, including Jack Waters, President of Zayo Fiber Solutions, Dennis Elwell, Group VP of Verizon Partner Solutions, and Phill Lawson-Shanks, Chief Architect and VP of Innovation at EdgeConnex®, all added their views on the continued growth of data and why this will have exponential impacts on data networks and data centers. Audience attendees were reminded that mobile growth is rising at a much faster rate than the general internet, 53% vs 40% CAGR by 2020.  As of July 2017, internet access by desktop has reduced to 41%, and mobile access has grown to 59%. These ratios will only continue to increase for mobile.

Another trend that is contributing to global data growth is IoT-connected devices. Desktop and mobile will generate under 10 billion online connections, yet connected devices are expected to eclipse 40 billion by 2020, with this number rising to 55 billion within the next 15 years. New trends in internet traffic will demand additional growth of data network connections. This will include continued construction of both fiber assets, data centers and mobile infrastructure.

One panel that seemed to generate a large buzz of discussion among conference attendees was the “Golden Age of the Data Centre.”  The panel included Nitin Rao, Vice President, Infrastructure, CloudFlare; Ryan Mallory, Vice President of Global Solutions Enablement, Equinix; Ben Hedges, CEO, Linx America; and Richard Steenbergen, Chief Technology Officer, PacketFabric. The panel agreed on many topics, yet had differing opinions on others. In agreement, was that hyperscale cloud is reshaping the growth of new data center traffic, along with continued M&A activity. Several on the panel believe that Software-Defined Networking (SDN) is coming on strong and will impact the future of data interconnections occur. The entire panel made strong cases for the need of automating the process by which data circuits are provisioned.

These comments all seemed to offer a congratulatory nod to panel participant PacketFabric, a startup that now has over 130 data centers on its platform in less than 8 months, with another 100-plus planned by the end of the year. Ryan Mallory reminded the audience that partnership and collaboration between data centers such as Equinix with content and application providers is a must for all data center operators who wish to maintain happy clients.

My takeaway from this event was that the demand for data connectivity is only growing stronger at an exponential rate. Discussions during panels and conversations among attendees all seemed to reinforce the themes that construction of new fiber routes, new data centers, and more M&As are on the horizon.

Finally, SDN-based data connection services, such as PacketFabric, will alter how businesses procure data connections in the same manner that cloud computing has changed how we process data. Don’t get too comfortable with the status quo, as SDN is quickly changing how enterprises provision and consume data connections.