Garry Connolly Provides CAPRE’s Keynote in Austin | “From Tokyo to Texas, It’s All About the Data”

AUSTIN, TX – CAPRE has a great relationship with Garry Connolly, Chairman at GconnTec & President Host in Ireland and Cochair of the GDPR Awareness Coalition, having hosted him at various data center and digital infrastructure summits both stateside and abroad. When considering the best way to set the tone at CAPRE’s recent Texas Data Center Summit, it was a no brainer – look to Connolly for some morning inspiration. Connolly’s keynote “From Texas to Tokyo, It’s All About the Data” provided just that, offering both a bird’s eye view as well as some nitty gritty details about the current and next chapter in the global data revolution.

“We’re entering into the second decade of the industrial decade 4.0,” began Connolly. “There’s a lot of things to be optimistic about, like MRIs being looked at in 3-D by a specialist in Tokyo while you’re lying in the machine in Austin. But there’s also some not-so-good things. Societal change that we’re driving, or really building, that is zombifying millennials. You might even say dumbing down people, because of our reliance on AR and VR.”

The bottom line, according to Connolly, is that whether you’re for it or against it, digitization is happening. How we operate and do business is fundamentally changing. “You don’t need a whole lot dough or a whole lot of offices or multi-million dollar investments to get started now,” he explained. “You can easily get going now….the number of devices creating data, which is then actually being held in servers, has exponentially increased in the last eleven years.”

Connolly then explained that there largely two killer apps in this transition, one being the emergence of AWS deciding to offer compute and storage as a service, which happened in 2006, and the other being the rise of consumer mobile devices, which happened in 2007. “Before 2006 you had to have a lot of money to handle your own compute and storage. Now you don’t. It’s easy to get up and going,” he reiterated, before connecting this development to the next – the arrival of the iPhone a year later. “The iPhone was like a bazooka for data, even if the first phone only held 8 gigabytes.”

“The compute, the storage, and the connected device, was an equation for a tsunami of data,” Connolly surmised, then bringing in another piece of critical technology, the Raspberry Pi, which interestingly enough, costs less than a typical Raspberry Pie in the United Kingdom (€10 versus €12). Fast forward to today, and we’re living in a very different world. “The amount of data created every two days is the same amount of data created around the world up to 2010.”

One of the consequences of this, continued Connolly, is that virtually every single business sector now represents a digital sector, even those which might be difficult to connect to a digital strategy. For example, this is even true for the Cannabis industry, which is struggling to find its footing legally, but is thriving online. The same goes for online dating, sports, and just about any other industry you can imagine. And the rub lies within how we, as members of the mission critical industry, learn about and maximize our expertise on that data. “If you don’t understand the data you’re putting into your center, then you don’t know if you’re a natural place or it,” he warned. “Because not all data is the same.”

“Therefore, every size, shape, and type of data center will eventually populate the planet,” predicted Connolly. “Even the tiniest little company that controls traffic or TV systems or municipality centers. Also, oil and gas. Mechanical and electrical infrastructure. Or I’ve got a new one for you – fog computing. CISCO has announced this, which is the last, last, last piece of the Edge. It’s like the Cloud, but it’s closest to the ground. From the smallest place in India to the largest building to New York, three billion people on this planet are in the Cloud, and three billion more are getting access now.”

Connolly then waded into some of the unforeseen consequences of this revolution — for example, the various considerations we must take into account regarding data privacy, data security, data sovereignty and data protection. “There is no issue around the world right now like that of creating, distributing, and optimizing data,” he explained. “We’re giving ourselves, a society, to data. This is the key thing to remember — data has the ability to influence anything and everything. It’s a wonderful time but we can’t be naive about the effects about all of this data.”

It was then time for another prediction from Connolly. “Moving forward, by the year 2025, 20% of all data in the world will be life-changing and critical,” he foresaw. By that, he means that right now, most data resides in in banks and offices. But by 2025, it’ll be moving into places like the home, into cars and power grids. And of course we can’t look to the future without thinking about perhaps the most disruptive technology of all — artificial intelligence. “There’s no question that data from AI will change the way we work. It will displace people from their jobs.” From there, Connolly segued into a broader discussion of ethics in this new age, honing in on a topic that rings true across every industry out there, both tech and traditional.

“Unconscious bias is what’s happening with the algorithms being built largely by grey-hared or bald-headed, caucasian men,” he explained. “It’s the biggest challenge we have right now. “Diversity and inclusion in algorithms is way more important than you might ever consider.”

Connolly then made perhaps his biggest prediction of the day. “There will be one trillion connected devices by 2035. We have 50 million right now,” he prognosticated, before diving into how you’re going to see more and more of the aforementioned different types of data centers. “You’re going to have fog computing and the edge computing but you’re going to have a bigger Edge and bigger Fog. It’s like the mainframe. How many people worked with that before? We had the mainfraime, the comms controller, the terminal controller. Guess what? It’s going to be the same, fundamentally. It’s just going to be more dynamic and more flexible, and you’ll have all these new words around it.”

“You’re going to have proximity zones,” continued Connolly. “Every single country will have an Azure proximity zone, an AWS proximity zone, Private Cloud proximity zones, and everything else in between. And then of course you’ll have plaecs like Dublin, Paris, Amsterdam, and Frankfurt, or here, that’s Northern Virginia. They’ve got the Microsofts and AWS but they’ve also got the CyrusOnes and EdgeConneX and Equinix. They’re the interconnect points. And not surprisingly, they’re going to be very close in proximity to boat loads of renewable energy.”

However, energy won’t be the only vital ingredient to the recipe of a more efficient and sustainable data future. Connolly then looked to something known as “Computer Dust” to illustrate the potential of we can expect in the future, describing what might just be the ultimate killer app on the scene by 2035 — a self-powered chip that contains one megawatt of processing power and requires zero storage — and is significantly smaller than a grain of rice.

“We’re this close to getting there,” he shared, then drawing in another kind of disruptive technology currently being advanced in his own home country of Ireland. “This kind of technology is absolutely happening. It holds 500x more than solid-state storage and uses about 100x less energy. This is the only way we can deal with the sensational appetite for newly generated data. Doing the same thing over and over again, hoping for a different result, even if it’s using renewable energy, is a stupid way to do it.”

However, Connolly then made an important warning about the journey there — at this point in time, 4 major companies are doing 80% of the work. “You’ve got maybe three others, such as AliBaba, TenCent, etc. but there’s so much secrecy. There’s a lack of collaboration here, and that’s causing many challenges,” he intimated, infusing a sense of urgency into his presentation before wrapping up his remarks. “A lack of partnerships is one of the biggest obstacles facing the industry. So we know the solutions to our problems, but will we be brave enough, creative enough, and consistently relentless enough to execute it? If you’re working in a data center, you’re dependent on one of those four companies to pledge that they’ll buy into this change, but we need to find a mechanism where they’re not just continuously redoing the same thing.”

“As I tell my daughter,  we have to solve these situations if we want to keep Florida in the geography syllabus. If we keep going the way we’re going, it’s going to be in the history syllabus,” Connolly concluded.