You’ve probably seen Gartner’s top 10 strategic technology trends for 2024, released in October during the Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo. ‘Tis the season for tech trends lists, which can bring a sort of pride for those of us in the digital infrastructure industry. We are the folks tasked with developing and maintaining the mission critical backbone that allows tech trends to flourish; without data centers, artificial intelligence (AI) and other next-generation tech wouldn’t be possible.
So it makes sense that Gartner’s list hits on many of the core themes within the data center industry. Here are two of the biggest takeaways from my perspective:
1. To no one’s surprise, AI dominates the list, with three of the 10 trends relating directly to it. Gartner discusses the democratization of Generative AI (GenAI), with massively pretrained models, open source and cloud computing more available to workers globally every day — and the guardrails that are necessary as this radically powerful technology rises. There are two ways we think about AI at EkkoSense, and both are relevant here:
A. The Pressure to Optimize Data Center Operations, Due to AI: Those of us in the data center industry know better than anyone that the pace of change has skyrocketed since the onset of AI. Washington Post reporter Angus Loten reported that “the average power draw of a full stack of servers in an AI data center can reach 50 kilowatts or more per rack, compared with roughly 7 kilowatts per rack in a conventional data center.” Even before GenAI, data centers were staring down increases in workload levels of 20%+, so it’s safe to say the pressure to optimize is on.
B. The Power of AI for Optimizing Data Center Operations: As with most technology, AI brings challenges and opportunities — just on a scale that’s rare in scope. Because of the power of AI, we would be remiss to not leverage it to drive the next wave of data center optimization. At EkkoSense, we offer the industry’s first fully embedded, AI-driven cooling advisory tool, appropriately named Cooling Advisor. However, we’re well aware of the limitations of AI; our Cooling Advisor makes tailored, proactive recommendations on ways to improve thermal efficiency within data center environments, but it requires human support to enact those changes. By following the clear recommendations offered by Cooling Advisor’s algorithms, data center teams can shave off up to 30% in cooling energy.
2. Sustainable technology gets personal. Gartner calls out an interesting prediction: that personal compensation and sustainable tech impact will be linked for one-fourth of CIOs by 2027. Gartner also found that “80% of CIOs will have performance metrics tied to the sustainability of the IT organization” by that same year. Of course, sustainability is always a personal topic, since it affects every one of us, now and in the future. It’s encouraging to see it finally starting to get the attention it deserves.
Indeed, supporting more workloads with less environmental impact is one of the most important challenges for our industry to solve. Last year, The Financial Times reported that 300 data centers in Virginia now consume 20% of all electricity demand in the state. Although data centers as a whole have become vastly more sustainable in recent years (with the average annual PUE for large data centers falling from 2.50 to 1.58 between 2007 and 2017, according to the Uptime Institute), the rate of improvement has stalled while demand continues to rise.