Data Centers: Foundational to Innovation Now and In the Future

data center

In celebration of International Data Center Day, TIA is exploring innovations enabled by data centers and taking a look at what’s in store for the future, as data centers continue to evolve to support low latency networking applications and 5G services.

Data centers have served as foundational elements of computing systems since the 1940s, when the complexity of early computers, like ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer), required dedicated space to operate under optimal environmental conditions. The data center has evolved over time to run massive and rapid computations and send the information back to the origin of the request.

Today’s data centers operate in generally the same way, even if their power, scale, application and efficiency have advanced beyond what would have been imagined 70-80 years ago. Though cloud applications and software-based services make headlines, data centers have been unsung heroes in their success. Recently, data center owners have been preparing to enable the next major leap in 5G application technology and low latency networking – the dispersion to the edge.

Data centers already underpin many innovations that have become fundamental parts of our everyday lives, from ordering dinner online to streaming our favorite movies and shows. Let’s examine some interesting areas to keep an eye on as data centers migrate closer to end users.

Edge Computing

With the proliferation of IoT systems and devices driving a more efficient world around us, processing data is now taking place closer to users than ever before. It shows no signs of slowing down. By 2025, 175 zettabytes (or 175 trillion gigabytes) of data will be generated around the globe, and more than 90 zettabytes of that data will be created by edge devices, according to IDC’s Data Age 2025 report. The cloud is moving closer to end-users reducing the time it takes for a request to be sent, received, calculated, and returned. While a few milliseconds may seem superfluous on the surface, that time is critical for new applications like autonomous cars and drones.

A large portion of computing capabilities will be migrating to the edge of networks over the next few years in clusters of edge data centers which can range in size from that of a kitchen cabinet to that of a large shipping container. Analysts estimate that 91% of today’s data is created and processed in centralized data centers. By 2022, about 75% of all data will need analysis and action at the edge

Smart Buildings

The future of our work and living spaces resides in buildings that are only just beginning to utilize connected technology to make them safer, healthier and more environmentally friendly. To scale this, there needs to be more consistency in feeding and analyzing a building’s worth of data in real time.

As buildings gradually become smarter and give shape to smart cities, data centers are needed to track and monitor shared resources and integrate systems. Data is needed to make quick, automated decisions about everything from ventilation optimization to predictive maintenance for a chiller’s subsystem component. And by using machine learning and comparative analytics, buildings are coming to life, adapting to better meet the needs of tenants.

Entertainment and Gaming VR

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, sports and entertainment industries were looking for new ways to engage fans on and off the field and stage. In the immediate future, Augmented Reality mobile applications will be the technology that initially propels the crowd experience forward.

The NFL was already developing VR-enabled activities for its fans, including a virtual football toss game where fans use their smartphones to virtually throw a football into a simulated pickup truck located on the field. Additionally, they used AR graphics during games aired on Nickelodeon which showed eruptions of green slime splatter onto the field whenever a team scored a touchdown.

Juniper Research is estimating that more than 1 billion people will be regularly watching e-sports by 2025. With e-sports now emerging from its market infancy and beginning to take its first steps as a maturing global industry, data centers are critical to facilitating real-time global tournaments with a consistent user experience from L.A. to London to Tokyo.

Public Safety and Healthcare VR

Data centers will also play a critical role in the technology applications of tomorrow, including enhanced VR for first responders and powering real-time virtual copies of important physical assets.

While AR and VR are primarily being used for gaming and entertainment purposes today, the technology is being developed to support training applications in several professional fields from disaster response to healthcare. Soon, first responders will be able to utilize purpose-built VR programs to gain real-time information about locations and situations during emergencies. This technology will be able to leverage visual data collection through drones and satellites giving emergency response teams insight to the scene prior to being deployed to the  site.

Beyond that, VR will be able to assist in providing better and more equitable healthcare. For example, hospitals like Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles are studying how VR can be used to treat chronic pain. VR may soon also be able to help doctors gain better understanding of their patients’ health situations by allowing them to simulate symptoms for additional investigation.


Digital Twins

The concept of digital twins may sound like science fiction, but by making a virtual copy of a physical object or environment, companies can optimize the efficiency of their systems, especially when it comes to predictive maintenance and upkeep. Automobiles, buildings, and more will see more and more adoption of digital twin applications.

But for that to happen there must be a more streamlined way to feed and analyze massive amounts of data from sensors into the digital versions. Without that data collection and analysis prior to input, the physical system won’t be able to accurately communicate what it needs to the digital one. Data centers will both help advance and benefit from the use of digital twin technology.


Since data centers will continue to play a relatively quiet yet critical role in the technology of tomorrow, it’s crucial that the end users, regardless if government agencies or private enterprises or even consumers, should all have the right to see if the data centers their services are hosted on, are resilient, reliable and trusted.

To do that, TIA developed ANSI/TIA-942—the Telecommunications Infrastructure Standard for Data Centers—as a way to demonstrate resiliency. TIA-942 defines the optimal infrastructure requirements for the data centers where the computing and storage will be located. It defines multiple levels to support different use cases and requirements.

The data center is evolving but will continue to be the foundation upon which new low latency and 5G technology is built upon. For more information on the future of data centers, especially at the edge, register for our webinar on April 13 at 11am ET.