In our recent analysis of the cabling market for data centers, we found a large untapped market poised for explosive growth. Whereas the historic growth LAN data communications market for structured cabling systems has stagnated in the recent past, new niche markets, such as the data center market, are developing and can provide renewed growth for structured cabling system suppliers.
As can be seen from the figure for data center cabling forecasts, we project the market will grow from $680.9 million this year at a 26.8% rate, to $2.235 billion by 2011-a significantly large market with outstanding potential.
The primary driving force for growth in data centers, and for cabling, over the next five years will be increased centralization of databases and computing resources.
The primary driving force for growth in data centers, and hence the cabling, is the movement to centralize the enterprise’s databases and computing resources. This is currently occurring primarily at smaller firms. Larger firms may already have data centers deployed, but typically, they were created in a haphazard manner, making it difficult to manage and upgrade or modify. But with the release of the TIA/EIA 942 data center cabling standard last year, a means is now provided to be able to manage the upgrades and modifications.
Major upgrades are continuously occurring at large enterprises’ data centers. As a result, major upgrades are typically accompanied by redeploying the data centers to conform to the new cabling standard. And this usually requires installing new cabling systems.
Copper cabling remains the leading choice for both large and small data centers.
In our computer modeling of the data center architecture required to generate the cabling product forecasts, we found that the market is segmented into three definable architectures:
1. Small data centers with fewer than 100 servers and no storage area networks (SANs) were typically all-copper architectures.
2. Medium data centers with fewer than 100 servers but containing at least one SAN were cabled with both fiber and copper.
3. Large data centers with more than 100 servers, and typically hundreds or even thousands of servers at large enterprises or service providers, were typically all-fiber cabling systems.
In our preliminary assessment of the data center market, we believed it would be heavily skewed toward fiber cabling due to the high bandwidths associated with data centers. In our research, we came to the surprising finding that copper cabling was the dominant medium. The cabling used in the multitude of small data centers using all copper cabling was higher in value to the smaller number of larger sites with all-fiber cabling architectures.
FRANK MURAWSKIis president of FTM Consulting Inc. (www.ftmconsultinginc.com).