Consider the plight of the modern data center. The realization that data is growing at an exponential rate and that this must be addressed is something that seems to be engraved in the hearts and minds of those who work, live, and breath the infrastructure that connects our digital lives.

However, along with the non-tangible aspects of data growth come the hardware-related challenges associated with the high-performance computing power that is needed to carry this data from end to end at speeds that satisfy all involved.

And, at the epicenter of this computing challenge, comes the need for optical networking—the lifeblood of the modern data center and the conduit through which everything flows. It is this single core aspect that will require the single largest investment in technology infrastructure in the history of the modern digital age.

Although I’m not one to ever be accused of being an alarmist when it comes to data, its growth is alarming in many ways. So much so, in fact, that the optical communication and networking market has been deemed the fastest-growing market in the world, simply because of the explosion in data. To put that in financial terms, the market stood at approximately USD$15 billion in 2017—a telling number in itself.  However, to bring an even starker reality to the table, that same market is predicted to grow to a whopping USD$24 billion by 2023.

So, why so much growth? It simply comes down to the amount of data being created every second of every day. If you were to look back even 10 years, aside from whatever data was a result of social media and the advent of the smartphone, the majority of data was generated by corporations. Now, however, the concept of Internet penetration permeates everything from IoT, to personal devices, to media, and its associated creation and consumption all lead to the need for bigger and better data center deployments—all built to meet the needs of digital progress.

What is more interesting is that it seems North America–generated data is growing at the fastest rate of any global region. Whether that is because of our inherent consumerism—or the number of cat videos our CEO uploads to the Internet on a daily basis—our part of the world is driving the data wave.

Of course, there is also the seemingly massive increase in data traffic through what many now call  “mega” data centers—the big players in the space—including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft to name a few, the collective companies that drive all things mobile Web.

In short, if we in North America are going to be at the absolute center of the data storm and its associated growth in the next five years, our collective optical networking games better be on point. With more personal devices being introduced every day, IoT expanding into everyone’s homes—and our CEO hinting at another cat purchase—we are all in for one heck of a ride.