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Hyperscale Data Centers: The Way of the Future
With billions of people and tens of billions of devices online today, there’s never been a bigger need for computing infrastructure and data centers. What’s paving the way for companies to scale operations faster than ever before? Hyperscale data centers.
What Is a Hyperscale Data Center?
A data center is a building that houses an organization's servers and IT equipment. A private, or enterprise data center serve strictly as a resource for the businesses that own them. A multi-tenant, or colocation data center is used as a means of providing infrastructure services to the public.
When people refer to hyperscale data centers, they are most often referring to the customers who own or lease a given data center, as well as the size. Tag Greason, Chief Hyperscale Officer at QTS, defines these companies as those who will either build/lease 20+ MW at a time or who will gradually expand to that number over time in 1-3 MW chunks. There are only a small handful of companies in the world who will make those large initial commitments. These are the cloud service providers; Amazon (AWS), Microsoft (Azure), Facebook and Google (GCP). There are a couple dozen more who may grow into that 15-20 MW range over time. These are SaaS and other companies like SAP, SalesForce, Workday, Uber, Lyft, and Twitter.
So, a hyperscale data center is one that has been built by a hyperscale company or one that has been designed specifically to meet the needs of a hyperscale company. Many of the latter type are designed in partnership with the company who is leasing the space as part of the pre-leasing process.
The Rise of Hyperscale
As our world becomes increasingly technological and the demand for storage and compute services has grown, so has the need for facilities to handle these needs.
Two trends have driven the need to large-scale IT infrastructure. When cloud computing platforms began to emerge in the late 2000s, they acted as demand aggregators for businesses who were looking to convert their on-premises IT workloads. Cloud platforms allow users to provision resources and scale quickly, often remotely and near-instantaneously. And the companies who provide these services could then forecast future growth and “buy in bulk” to meet that demand.
Additionally, the rapid rise of SaaS, streaming, and social media further drives growth in the industry. All three of these types of companies need massive amounts of storage, compute, and bandwidth to meet their customers needs.
Who Are the Hyperscale Users?
There are now three times as many large-scale data centers being operated by hyperscale providers as there were in 2013. And it’s not hard to imagine which companies might be at the top of that list.
Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and IBM all have hyperscale data centers in every major region of the world, and other top players like Facebook, Apple, Oracle, and Chinese cloud giant Alibaba aren’t far behind. These A-listers can take down over 70 megawatts and hundreds of thousands of square feet at a time.
Next in line are companies with lower present requirements, but who still want the ability to grow a few megawatts at a time. Among their ranks are companies like Salesforce, SAP, Dropbox, Twitter, Uber, and Lyft.
Hyperscale Over Colocation?
As noted above, the largest consumers of data centers all employ a build and lease strategy. This is dependent on many factors, such as timing, cost, future needs, and others. These colocation providers have become increasingly creative in pursuing hyperscale companies, ranging from basically being the development arm for them to designing to their specifications or delivering just a powered shell and letting the user provide the internal equipment.
Smaller, though still hyperscale, companies primarily lease from colocation providers. These companies act more like traditional colocation customers, but typically have needs to pathways to growth over time.
The Future of Hyperscale
Hyperscale companies continue to dominate the landscape, driving design, location, and cost for the entire industry. Though the specific companies may change, the underlying trends of digitization, IoT, and data creation will persist and fuel the need for even more data centers in the future. And a major portion of these will be hyperscale.