With HostingCon 2015 recently concluded in San Diego, and Amsterdam, Mumbai and China next on the list – so it seems now is as good a time as ever to take a step back and look at the state of play in the hosting world, revisit where it has come from and have a guess at where it is going.

“This machine is a server. DO NOT POWER IT DOWN!!”

So reads the note which was attached to the first server ever in creation. It might seem gobsmackingly obvious what a server is and looks like, but put yourself in the shoes of a cleaner or office worker at CERN back in 1989, and you might begin to see that this kind of technology was genuinely at the cutting edge of computing and information exchange.

It is then and there that Tim Berners-Lee, along with a crude, seminal version of a browser he called World Wide Web, created the world’s first web server, which later became known as CERN HTTPd. So novel was its role and performance, that his colleagues needed a visual reminder never to switch off the device.

If Berners-Lee’s original server makes you feel at all nostalgic, then take a nice walk down memory lane and have a look at the physical evolution of servers in pictures.

Servers, servers, everywhere, but where is best to host?

It’s all a far cry from today, where we see servers popping up like flowers during a perennial digital spring, all because companies are building more and more data centers all over the world. By 2017, the number of data centers will peak at 8.6 million. Overall, the space occupied by these data centres will be increased, growing from 1.58 billion square feet in 2013 to 1.94 billion in 2018. Even blossoming businesses are majorly contributing to this growth, like Host1plus, which, if you check their server location map, you can see they already have a data center CV that is a testament to their expansive growth since 2008. So it seems this is the norm for providers old and new, but how will this trend play out in the years to come?

“Over the next five years, a majority of organizations will stop managing their own infrastructure,” explained Richard Villars, VP of data center and cloud research at IDC. “They will make greater use of on-premise and hosted managed services for their existing IT assets, and turn to dedicated and shared cloud offerings in service provider datacenters for new services.”

Data security and privacy are becoming ever more important, to both companies and the man and woman on the street. The race to provide safe and sound, impenetrable web servers is growing more fervent by the day.

It’s leading to some server soul-searching, which drags providers across the world in the hunt for legal parameters that speak to both their needs and the demands of the market. The iWeb blog has a comprehensive rundown of the most important factors which dictate how hosting locations are and should be being chosen. The post details how complex the decision-making process can be, and highlights the need to marry speed and performance with cost-effective operations, not to mention avoiding the potential risk of natural disasters to centers, and ensuring that providers are geographically closer to their customers than competitors.

A host of options: what’s next for servers?

Well, cutting costs seems to occupy the most pressing to-dos on most server companies’ lists of things to achieve beyond 2015. In the US alone, over 12 million servers in 3 million data centers consume roughly 100 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity every year. This is resulting in billions of dollars being spent on data center energy, with billions on top spent on power distribution and cooling infrastructures too.

Another avenue of change is the prospect of virtualization in data centers. The benefits of virtualization are diverse, including better testing, easier backups, and quicker redeployments. Although the feasibility of virtualization is often refuted, new virtualization technologies are popping up day by day to increase the attraction and viability of virtualization for providers. One such promising technology is that of the virtual storage area network (VSAN). Virtualization tools such as VSAN serve to improve flexibility in data centers and contribute to the automation process too.

And don’t forget the cloud. As always, adopting the cloud heavily depends on what kind of industry and business is concerned. Yet, with the improving security of cloud solutions in tandem with the decrease in costs, it’s only a matter of time before we see more and more data centers become predominantly cloud-based.

Servers have come a long way since Berners-Lee’s breakthrough over 25 years ago, and it’s an exciting, defining era for an industry that is growing exponentially. Events like HostingCon are gaining stature and importance, and that’s a clear indication that the server world’s key players have got their fingers on the pulse and their eyes on the prize in terms of making server hosting as good as it can possibly be.

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