Where Will Your Data Center be in 20 Years?

When considering a new data center, one of the most difficult things to do is forecast your needs in 20 years. Will the company grow like your top sales executive expects? If so, you may need multiple data centers scattered across the world just to handle the additional load. On the other hand, your CFO has a more conservative estimate and is responsible for how much is actually spent on a data center.

By Mark Haslam

In addition to the size, you have to consider will your data center become obsolete in 5, 10, 15, or 20 years?

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According to Pitt Turner, Executive Director with the Uptime Institute, there is no set lifespan to a data center. “A data center that is designed with flexibility really doesn’t have a life expectancy,” says Turner. “Over the life of the data center, you need to replace the capacity components just like you replace the tires on your car.” Turner further states, “Chillers, UPSs, that sort of stuff needs to be replaced and you have to have a data center infrastructure that will allow you to do that.”

Over time, as components age, they will need to be retired and replaced with newer components. At that time, you can take the opportunity to increase the capacity of power and cooling to allow for greater density.

Using this ideology means that data centers could realistically last for 20 years as long as an appropriate budget is allowed to do the required ongoing maintenance.

Planning for the future

Another way of looking at this question is to consider your data center as a service. In this case, you don’t have to waste your capital on buying real estate. You simply use colocation with a service provider that has already made the investment.

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It’s critical to select a data center provider with enough flexibility to allow for future growth. This means tier 3 systems have to be in place to allow data center upgrades to occur while existing systems continue running.


You really have two options when considering where your data center will be in 20 years. With the first option, you can guestimate based on research and understanding of where your company will be and then take on a huge capital expense as you build your data center. If you guess wrong, it can be an expensive mistake.

The second option is to consider a colocation service provider that has already done the research and is ready for growth. This makes the provider responsible for upgrading expensive equipment as needed and making sure it plans for the future.