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In 2023 you can expect data centers to grow in power, scalability, and sustainability.

By Brian Rhoney
Published: December 8, 2022

Unseen by the vast majority of people, today’s world of technology simply wouldn’t exist without data centers. While 2022 was somewhat stagnant for these behind-the-scenes computing installations, 2023 is poised to bring a number of transformations to keep them up to speed with the changing tech landscape. In the coming year, you can expect data centers to grow in power, scalability, and sustainability, and Corning is gearing up with infrastructure solutions to enable these changes.

The following list details the four leading data center trends to prepare for in 2023.

1. A ‘Hammer Down’ Year

2022 was a challenging year for data centers as supply chain issues hampered growth. Problems such as labor and material shortages, transportation struggles, and the rising cost of components like power supplies, chips, servers, and switches delayed deployments that were planned for 2022. These issues particularly affected hyperscale data centers—the largest facilities that measure their power consumption in megawatts—and hindered the expansion of some leading tech firms whose growth is closely tied to their ability to process data.

In 2023, it’s expected that large businesses will finally execute on their 2022 plans as well as getting long-term planning back on track, assuming supply chain problems are resolved to a satisfactory extent. This will push a greater demand in fiber optic infrastructure to support facility growth and modernization, a scenario for which Corning is thoroughly prepared.

2. Support for Emerging Technologies

More than any other application, technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are demanding the build-out of new data center infrastructure. Data center space must evolve to meet the power density envelope of AI and ML, which can be three times higher than traditional envelopes. This also requires more advanced cooling systems to handle the increased output.

From a cabling perspective, an additional backend network must be built to handle the machine-to-machine orchestration  required. The intensive nature of AI and ML computing can necessitate a significant sharing of resources such as compute, storage, and memory, divided among many machines in a compute cluster. This cluster requires a new cabling and switch network to power the machine-to-machine, or “east-to-west” communications in the data center. Such configurations were previously only seen at massive research institutions like national laboratories, but are now becoming commonplace at hyperscale data centers as cutting-edge technologies grow.

3. The Birth of 800G

While many data center consumers have only started considering 100G upgrades, the hyperscalers are now closing in on terabit speeds. 800G network switches have begun to hit the market for future-looking businesses and those interested in building redundancy, which is how these high-bandwidth switches figure to be used for the next several years. Use cases for single pipelines of 800G will surely emerge, but for now, such switches are largely being used in what is known as “breakout mode,” where the switch is separated out into two 400G ports or eight 100G ports.

Some of the largest hyperscale data centers will be building out 400G infrastructures consisting of 800G switches in “breakout mode.” We can expect a fairly quick ramp-up toward the end of 2023, driving new cabling considerations to accommodate the breakout of these optics. Corning is participating with some of these hyperscalers in early deployments of this nature and has developed port breakout assemblies and modules to help ease the transition.  However, 400/800G is not limited to the hyperscale clients; rather as non-hyperscale customers are expanding and upgrading their 100G networks, we expect them to leverage some of these 400/800G switches in “breakout mode” to drive lower cost per link at better power efficiency.     

4. Sustainability

With institutions and municipalities around the world rolling out carbon emissions goals for the end of the decade, data centers—some of the most energy-demanding facilities in existence—are under increased scrutiny. Indeed, in Ireland, where data centers use more than 10% of the nation’s electricity supply, a de facto moratorium is in effect barring the construction of any new data centers in Dublin before 2028. As green agendas gain momentum, it’s likely that more municipalities will follow suit unless significant strides are made to power these facilities with sustainable energy sources.

For now, renewable energy like solar stands as an interesting proposition for smaller data centers in cities. But the energy required for hyperscale data centers, which can be as large as football stadiums, would necessitate an entire dedicated solar farm. Then, there’s the issue of adequately storing a charge when conditions are poor for power generation. In short, the push for sustainability has a long way to go, but 2023 is likely to bring the path to a greener future into better focus. In the meantime, Corning is doing its part to help lower the carbon footprint of data centers through its newer lines of smaller-footprint cabling, which results in smaller packaging and improved shipping efficiency.

Overall, 2023 is poised to bring extensive refinements in the operations of data centers as these facilities continue to grow in importance, supporting the rise in remote work, the growth of high-compute technology, and handling the world’s ever-expanding volume of data.

With over 21 years of experience at Corning, Brian Rhoney has held positions in product engineering, systems engineering and product line management. He is currently the Director of Data Center Market Development in which the team is responsible for new product innovation. In 2005, Brian received recognition as the Dr. Peter Bark Inventor of the Year, and he also received his professional engineer’s license. Brian graduated from North Carolina State University with a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering. He also received an MBA from Lenoir-Rhyne University.

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