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Pizza Boxes, The Cloud, and Data Centers

July 7, 2014  |  Written by Digital Realty

While working on my presentation for the Cloud Slam ’14 conference, I had a flashback to the mid-90’s when my brother and I had just moved to Atlanta after college to start an ISP. We built our core infrastructure on Sun SPARCstation servers and storage devices affectionately nicknamed “pizza boxes” and “shoe boxes.”

Yes. It was the early years of the World Wide Web. Customers paired their Windows 95 computers with blazing fast 14.4 kbps modems to access the rapidly growing “Information Superhighway.” It was an exciting time to be in technology.

Then everything changed. Not all at once, but slowly over time.

First the applications changed, which impacted the servers required to host them. This created a need for faster connectivity to accommodate the new servers. Applications kept evolving and created a demand for more servers and faster connections. The only thing that hasn’t changed over the past 20 years is our insatiable appetite for data center space. In the United States alone, we use over 600 million square feet of our real estate for data centers. According to the U.S. EPA, data centers consumed 2% of our total national power supply in 2010.

Wait a second. Wasn’t this a CLOUD conference presentation?

Yes. And since the cloud lives in data centers, it’s important to understand the evolution and hierarchy of data centers to prepare for today’s hybrid cloud deployments and the next generation of cloud services. We must build today’s data centers to meet the current and future needs of cloud providers, SaaS providers and end users to avoid getting stuck in the slow lane. After all, this is the “Information Superhighway.”