Service Providers' Data Center Growth Phase is Continuing, According to IHS Markit

Service providers are investing in their data centers (DCs) to improve scalability, deploy applications rapidly, enable automation, and harden security, according to the Data Center Strategies and Leadership Global Service Provider Survey from IHS Markit.


Respondents are considering taking advantage of new options from server vendors such as ARM-based servers and parallel compute co-processors, allowing them to better match servers to their workloads.

“Traditional methods for network provisioning to provide users with a quality experience, such as statically assigned priorities (QoS) in the DC network, are no longer effective,” said Cliff Grossner Ph.D., senior research director and advisor for cloud and data center at IHS Markit. “The DC network must be able to recognize individual application traffic flows and rapidly adjust priority to match the dynamic nature of application traffic in a resource-constrained world.”

The workloads most deployed by service provider respondents were IT applications (including financial and on-line transaction processing), followed by ERP and generic VMs on VMware ESXi and Microsoft Hyper-V. Speed and support for network protocol virtualization and SDN are top service provider DC network requirements.

“New requirements for applications delivered on demand, coupled with the introduction of virtualization and DC orchestration technology, has kicked off an unprecedented transformation that began on servers and is now reaching into the DC network and storage,” Grossner said. “Physical networks will always be needed in the DC to provide the foundation for the high-performance connectivity demanded of today’s applications.”

The IHS Markit research identifies Cisco, Juniper, Huawei, Arista, and H3C as the top five DC Ethernet switch vendors by service provider respondents ranking the top three vendors in each of eight selection criteria.

“These Ethernet switch providers have a long history as hardware vendors,” said Grossner. “When selecting a vendor, respondents are heavily weighing factors such as product reliability, service and support, pricing model, and security”.

More Service Provider Data Center Strategies Highlights

  • Respondents indicate they expect a 1.5-times increase in the average number of physical servers in their DCs by 2019.
  • Top DC investment drivers are scalability (a driver for 93 percent of respondents), rapid application deployment (87 percent), automation (73 percent), and security (73 percent).
  • On average 90 percent of servers are expected to be running hypervisors or containers by 2019, up from 74 percent today.
  • Top DC fabric features are high speed and support for network virtualization protocols (80 percent of respondents each), and SDN (73 percent).
  • One hundred percent of respondents intend to increase investment in SSD, 80 percent in software defined storage, and 67 percent in NAS.
  • The workloads most deployed by respondents were generic IT applications (53 percent of respondents), followed by ERP and generic VMs (20 percent).
  • Cisco and Juniper are tied for leadership with on average 58 percent of respondents placing them in the top three across eight categories. Huawei is third (38 percent), Arista is fourth(28 percent), and H3C is fifth (18 percent).

(For more information visit