Big Data // Hardware/Architectures
News
6/2/2014
08:06 AM
Charles Babcock and Chris Murphy
Charles Babcock and Chris Murphy
Slideshows
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
0%
100%

6 Models Of The Modern Data Center

Our exclusive look inside the new data centers of Fidelity, GM, Capital One, Equinix, ServiceNow, and Bank Of America shows the future of computing.
Previous
1 of 7
Next

The cloud hasn't killed the company-owned data center.

Companies from General Motors to Fidelity are taking the best infrastructure ideas from Web giants such as Facebook and Google and adapting them to their very different business needs in order to build a new generation of data centers.

To highlight the different approaches and strategies these companies are taking, we looked at six companies beyond the Web giants that have made or are planning major data center investments. Our point isn't that data center construction is booming; Gartner forecasts only 2.3% growth in data center spending in 2014, to $143 billion. Companies will spend more than twice that on enterprise software, by comparison, at a growth rate of nearly 7%.

But we are seeing a boom in data center innovation, and it's coming not just from Web and cloud service companies, but from conventional companies that still see running world-class data centers as part of their competitive advantage.

Here's an overview of the innovations that we'll explore in this slideshow:

Fidelity is opening a new data center in Nebraska this fall. The investment giant is one of the biggest advocates outside Silicon Valley for open source hardware, and the new building itself is a modular, just-in-time construction design.

General Motors spent $130 million on a new data center in Michigan, with a second one coming online this summer. It's a private-cloud-meets-mainframe operation, as the company supports both Web-ready apps and long-running legacy software.

Capital One christened its new $150 million Virginia facility in March, replacing capacity by third-party operators as the company shifts from an outsourcing strategy to insourcing most of its IT. The goal is to make sure infrastructure doesn't slow down its new Agile development initiatives.

Bank of America is entirely reimagining its data center infrastructure, with a private cloud architecture and commodity hardware taking center stage. And it's looking like modular, container-based capacity will play a major new role.

Equinix is tapping into companies' need for faster transactions and processing by building telecom-centric data centers. These facilities can connect cloud computing and storage resources, for example, to an array of telecom options -- 130 different carriers from the hub that sits near Amazon Web Service's Virginia data center complex.

ServiceNow is a fast-growing software-as-a-service business that has doubled its data center capacity over the past two years, opting to lease space from a co-location provider rather than build. It trusts in its resilient architecture design and management software to keep the services up and running -- along with staff working around-the-clock at the co-lo's facility.

Read on to get a closer look at these innovative projects. Or click here to get the article in digital issue form (registration required) if preferred.

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek, having joined the publication in 2003. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive Week. He is a graduate of Syracuse ... View Full Bio

Previous
1 of 7
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Charlie Babcock
50%
50%
Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
6/17/2014 | 4:23:21 PM
Nebraska data center built to withstand an F3 force gale. What about two?
Fidelity built its new data center near Omaha, Nebraska, which is about 90 miles from where the twin tornadoes struck Pilger, Neb., June 16. Its steel-frame rooms can withstand an F3 force wind, which includes all but the largest tornadoes. Not sure, though, whether it can withstand two of them at the same time.
Charlie Babcock
50%
50%
Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
6/3/2014 | 3:32:06 PM
Open Compute key to future data center hardware?
Facebook uses servers based on the Open Compute Project's motherboard design. It's also testing data center switches based on Broadcom's design submitted to the Open Compute Project. Mellanox, Big Switch and Broadcom are all planning on building Open Compute-design switches. Facebook is using some of the swtiches for an SDN production network, Yevgeniy Severdlil reported on Data Center Knowledge today.  http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2014/06/03/facebook-testing-broadcoms-open-compute-switches-production/
Charlie Babcock
50%
50%
Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
6/3/2014 | 3:18:55 PM
Minimizing power consumption in its distribution
Another phase of modern data center building addresses how it manages its power supply. There are actually a wide variety of schemes to make power uninteruptible -- and they require some small amount of energy themselves to stay ready at an instant's notice for a switchover. A closet full of 12 volt batteries, with some portion of incoming current flowing through them, is one solution. A gateway between the batteries and alternating current can be built from an insulated gate bipolar transistor, which instantly conveys direct current if the alternating current goes away. That bypasses the need to run a little of the incoming current through the batteries, saving energy, an innovation by the Vantage data center builders.
Laurianne
50%
50%
Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
6/3/2014 | 10:06:28 AM
Re: Speed will drive architecture
Midsize companies often struggle just to so an apples-to-apples cost comparison between in house and cloud. Great look inside these data centers, Chris and Charlie. Did anything surprise you here, readers?
ChrisMurphy
50%
50%
ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
6/3/2014 | 9:31:46 AM
Re: Speed will drive architecture
Well put, James -- I have heard a number of midsized companies say they're benchmarking their data centers against cloud options, and believe they're competitive on costs. And as you say, cloud doesn't fit well for every app. It seems to me like we're seeing hybrid, but it's hybrid silos -- this goes cloud all the time, that stays on prem all the time, and there's very little dynamic switching (cloud bursting) between cloud and on prem. If others are seeing a lot of that dynamic switching between cloud and on prem, I'd love to hear about it. 
JamesV012
50%
50%
JamesV012,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/3/2014 | 9:25:42 AM
Re: Speed will drive architecture
Agreed that the larger companies aren't building a secret competitive advantage and are pretty open about how they do datacenter. I am playing from the mid-sized company tees. If you are more effiecient on cost or speed, I still consider that a competitive advantage. At the mid size, having data center and networking architecture designed for your needs can be a win.

My point was a bit cryptic. So many people are looking at cloud plays for infrastructure. While that can make sense for many applications, it isn't the new one size fits all. I think you'll see hybrid cloud/on prem architecture patterns being an advantage. 
ChrisMurphy
50%
50%
ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
6/3/2014 | 9:14:21 AM
Re: Speed will drive architecture
You note the competitive advantage that comes from the data center. But it's interesting how companies like Facebook are very open about their data center innovations -- seeing data centers as a cost to be lowered, and the more ideas they can share and spur the better. The tactics of running a world-class data center seem well understood, the challenge lies in executing on those tactics and then wringing the most value out, with steps like Capital One is taking to speed development and make sure infrastructure can keep up. 
JamesV012
50%
50%
JamesV012,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/2/2014 | 1:38:35 PM
Speed will drive architecture
As you saw the drive at FB and Google, other companies will realize you can build a competitive advantage in the data center. That could be speed, cost or security. As big data gets crunched more and more, having a dedicated infrastructure designed to handle it, may provide a competitive advantage.
Charlie Babcock
50%
50%
Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
6/2/2014 | 1:23:10 PM
The just-in-time data center
Fidelity's idea of a just-in-time data center, based on Open Compute hardware, built in modifiable increments is a drastic departure from the fixed in concrete notions that preceded it. Are there other ways to make data centers more adaptable?
ChrisMurphy
100%
0%
ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
6/2/2014 | 9:40:23 AM
Beyond Google and Facebook
What drew Charlie and I to this article idea is that, even in this age of the cloud, we keep seeing companies make major investments in their own data centers. We've written about DC innovation at the Internet companies like Google and Facebook, but these companies profiled here have different needs, from strict regulations to legacy apps. 
In A Fever For Big Data
In A Fever For Big Data
Healthcare orgs are relentlessly accumulating data, and a growing array of tools are becoming available to manage it.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest September 18, 2014
Enterprise social network success starts and ends with integration. Here's how to finally make collaboration click.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.