In light of rapid advancements in 5G, AI, cloud computing, and cloud services, TrendForce has observed that, since 2012, the widespread adoption of smartphones has brought about the emergence of certain new applications such as smartphone apps that leverage backend server support. Furthermore, enterprise cloud migration has noticeably accelerated after digital transformation activities began taking place in 2016. As a result, widespread data center deployments took center stage as the industry mainstream prior to 2020.
Moving into 2021, however, one of the many impacts of 5G commercialization on the market has to do with the regional deployment of infrastructures (i.e., small-scale data centers). This trend towards local deployment can be primarily attributed to the increasing stringency of personal data protection laws by governments worldwide that emphasize both the residency and the sovereignty of consumer data. Major public cloud companies are now beginning to establish cloud deployments closer to regions that represent sources of data generation, in order to deliver faster data analysis that is still in accordance with the law.
TrendForce’s observations on the build-out of data centers can be divided into the individual and enterprise aspects. With regards to the former, as connected devices become increasingly widespread and emerging content services more popular in the post-pandemic stay-at-home economy, consumer spending on streaming videos and online shopping began to experience a rapid spike, thereby contributing to a gradual increase in server build-outs for cloud services. Enterprises, on the other hand, have been seeking and deploying more flexible infrastructures in response to pandemic-induced uncertainties. Hence, certainly subscription services and hybrid cloud services have also been gaining momentum in the ongoing trend of cloud migration.
It should be noted that, due to recent geopolitical tensions, which intimately dictate the development of various countries’ industries and supply chains, global enterprises also face rapidly changing market needs as well as a high degree of uncertainties stemming from the pandemic. In turn, enterprise demand for cloud services has also seen a continued rise in the past two years. With respect to the adoption of AI and other emerging technologies, most enterprises prefer cloud services due to such services’ flexible cost structures. TrendForce’s latest investigations indicate that flexible pricing strategies and diverse services offered by data centers have directly propelled the demand from enterprises for cloud applications in the past two years. From the perspective of the server supply chain, these shifts have facilitated a gradual shift of the predominant business model in the server market from traditional server brands to ODM Direct.
In addition, data center-related technologies have also progressed significantly. As the way people work and live transforms, accompanied by the emergence of e-commerce and streaming media, enterprises have also become increasingly well-versed in cloud services and increasingly able to leverage related technologies. As such, the primary sources of competition in the cloud market will include not only infrastructures responsible for computing, storage, and networking, but also emerging technologies such as edge computing and software/hardware integration of related services by major operators. In particular, as 5G services successively kick into gear worldwide, the concept of “cloud-edge-local network” will begin to replace the current “cloud only” framework on a massive scale, thereby extending the relevant commercial opportunities from cloud services to hardware vendors. That is to say, in the future, cloud services will no longer be limited to the software front, as in-house hardware brands from CSPs are set to become the next battlefield while these companies compete to offer comprehensive services.
All of this raises the question of whether the build-out of data centers will involve more challenges and opportunities going forward. TrendForce believes that, in addition to factors such as telecommuting and e-commerce, data center demand from biomedical applications (for instance, the ramp-up of vaccinations) will also experience substantial growth, with the caveat that regulations governing the protection and collection of medical data will be even more stringent than those driving various countries’ data sovereignty endeavors. Hence, privacy and security pertaining to medical data will likely become not only a global pursuit, but also a significant challenge facing the application of data centers.