Top digital transformation trends for 2024

30 Jan 2024

Peter Lantry. Image: Equinix

Peter Lantry of Equinix discusses the top digital transformation trends expected this year, such as data centre pressures, green tech and ‘private AI’.

The digital transformation of the modern working world continues apace, particularly with the emergence of various technologies such as generative AI and machine learning into the mainstream. In 2023, workplaces began to experiment with these technologies, resulting in new tech-influenced practices in a number of industries as well as new skill expectations of workers.

With the digital transformation comes new challenges, though. One of these challenges is the maintenance of digital infrastructure to cope with the digital disruption. From projected pressure on data centres to strain on networks, the world of digital infrastructure is seeing unprecedented requirements to cope with digital transformation.

“Today, we work in a truly global – and growing – digital economy. The nations who have the digital infrastructure to support this will be best placed to benefit,” says Peter Lantry, managing director for Ireland at digital infrastructure company Equinix. Lantry filled us in on what digital transformation trends we can expect to see this year.

Data centres and digital demands

Due to the growing reliance on digital infrastructure, Lantry believes that 2024 will “see an increase in the importance of data centres and their status as critical national infrastructure”.

“Data centres and the cloud services that they facilitate have become indispensable in daily life – to the point where life would become considerably more difficult without them,” he says.

“For example, online shopping would cease completely. But more critically than that, scientific research, health innovations and green technologies would be severely negatively impacted.”

Lantry explains that the reliance of numerous sectors (such as utilities, healthcare and financial services) on digital infrastructure is only going to increase as technology such as AI becomes more advanced and requires more computing power. He states that it’s “vital” for the Irish data centre industry to grow in tandem with these energy requirements, but in a sustainable way.

“Our hope is that 2024 will see a more practical approach to data centres and the planning restrictions that are currently curtailing the necessary growth of the industry.”

Green tech and green computing

Recent reports have indicated the need for rapid action to curb the climate crisis in all areas of society, and the tech world is no exception. “It is important to acknowledge that technology and sustainability are not mutually exclusive,” says Lantry. “As the digital economy continues to grow, how do we facilitate an evolving world while also meeting our climate and emissions targets?

“Last year saw businesses continue to strive to operate as sustainably as possible, with green credentials moving higher up the list of priorities for partners, consumers and suppliers. Now, it is a prerequisite for doing business and we can expect some exciting developments in the green-tech arena this year as the world’s innovators strive to help us all to become more sustainable.”

Lantry believes that the growth of the tech sector “will be essential” to developing solutions to help fight the climate crisis, and he expects there to be a greater focus on the use of green tech and green computing this year.

Lantry believes that green tech – the use of technology to reduce the environmental impact of humans – will be used in data centres to optimise energy usage and decrease emissions. “For example, we are currently working with Codema, Dublin’s energy efficiency agency, on a district heating scheme which would see our excess data centre heat being used to heat vital infrastructure in the Blanchardstown area in Dublin.”

As well as the use of green tech, Lantry also believes we will see increased investments from the cloud computing sector in renewable energy sources and the deployment of energy efficient IT architectures.

Taking advantage of the digital transformation

While the pressures of digital transformation will require necessary adaption, Lantry also discusses how business leaders can take advantage of the changes.

“Emerging technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence have a significant role to play in fostering innovation in an organisation,” he says. “Automation can free up staff to work on more complex tasks such as problem-solving, while advanced collaboration tools means that people can connect and work together on innovative new products and services wherever they are in the world.

“By experimenting with these emerging technologies and integrating them into their company culture, organisations will give their staff the most valuable of resources when it comes to innovation: time.”

For AI in particular, Lantry says that we have “only just scratched the surface of what it is capable of”. He states that AI will soon become a “heavily” legislated area, and businesses will need to stay ahead of the curve. He predicts that, as a result, there will be an increase in enterprises using ‘private AI’, which he describes as “an AI environment built specifically by, or for, an organisation, and which is exclusively used by them”.

“This will protect data and reduce regulatory risks as ruling bodies around the world continue to get to grips with artificial intelligence, evidenced by the EU’s AI Act,” he says.

“Using private AI will also aid businesses with data collection and storage, while optimising performance and cost efficiency. As AI matures, it will be very exciting to see what the world’s digital leaders do with the technology this year.”

With the pace of technological change and disruption expected to rise going forward, Lantry has one main piece of advice for business and enterprise leaders: “Act with purpose”.

“The business landscape is changing at a phenomenal speed. Businesses and economies need to act to ensure they are prepared and ready for these changes,” he says. “Do your research, work with experienced partners and make sure you are in a position to make the most of these seismic shifts.”

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Colin Ryan is a copywriter/copyeditor at Silicon Republic