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Data center (DC) network operators have compiled a laundry list of must-have features they deem essential for running their networks, providing an invaluable guide for vendors serving the industry, according to a recent Omdia survey.

“DC operators have spoken—and they say they want their vendors to offer a range of enhancements, including increased port speeds, greater interoperability, application awareness, and support for artificial intelligence (AI),” said Devan Adams, principal analyst at Omdia. 

According to the Omdia Data Center Network Strategies & Leadership North American Survey - 2019, DC operators are seeking new features, including:

  • Increased port speeds—a no-brainer upgrade decision that is vital for enterprises evolving their networks to remain competitive and current.
  • Interoperability—using more open, standards-based equipment is becoming increasingly crucial for users as their networks become more diverse; this trend aligns with the increased adoption of Open Compute Project (OCP)-certified products, a phenomenon that Omdia has examined in its Data Center Network Equipment Market Tracker - Q4 2019 report.
  • Application awareness and automated tracking of virtual machine (VM) movements —these elements are important as more data center traffic gets routed from central DCs to edge locations, and networking users need to monitor their data across compute and storage, independent of the physical DC location.
  • Support for AI—respondents are keen on the benefits AI promises, and have high aspirations for the technology to improve the way their networks handle increasing amounts of resource-intense traffic from machine learning (ML) and deep learning (DL) applications.

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Data-center sites continue to rise to the challenge
Survey respondents said they will continue to invest in their DCs and are planning to nearly triple their average number of DC sites between 2019 and 2021. The expansion of respondents’ DC sites is being driven by several factors, including efforts by many smaller sites with fewer than 10 servers to increase their total number of servers to more than 10 by 2021. Other factors include the increasing average number of servers deployed at edge-located DCs to satisfy lower latency requirements, and local-government regulations requiring companies to keep certain data within country borders.

DC traffic is surging due to several factors, including requirements for improved application performance and faster access to new, innovative services including AI, machine learning (ML) and big data. The need for DC sites is growing in parallel with the rise in DC traffic.

“It’s imperative that enterprises continue to expand their DC capacities to handle the rise in traffic resulting from increased use of applications and high-bandwidth solutions,” Adams said.

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About the Omdia survey
In November 2019 through January 2020, Omdia conducted a survey with 140 North American Enterprises that have at least 101 employees in North American sites and data centers now. 

A total of 99 percent of survey respondents were either the primary decision maker or had significant influence in their organizations’ plans and purchase decisions regarding DC networking equipment.

In terms of business size, 52 percent of the respondents were from medium-sized organizations with 101 to 1,000 employees, while the remainder were from large organizations with staff sizes larger than 1,000