IT faces a choice: try to wring limited efficiency from legacy data centers, or re-invent them from the ground up.
A typical data center is like the overused power strip in your den. It has a flat-screen TV, DVR, DVD player, game consoles, and more plugged into it, and there’s just no room for anything else. Even if an extra socket were available, you’d just trip the breaker every time you turned on a new device.
IT organizations must balance rising resource demands on one side with constraints on data center space, power, and budget on the other. At present, IT relies too heavily on just one technology to maintain equilibrium: virtualization. Other tools and techniques can be used to keep data centers from knocking up against resource constraints, but many IT organizations aren't taking advantage of them. Our InformationWeek Analytics / Network Computing 2011 State of the Data Center Survey shows there's still more that can be done, such as deploying more energy-efficient equipment and getting a firm grasp on basic power usage metrics, which in turn can enable better power management. These options can help IT extend the useful life of existing facilities without massive investment.
Another challenge is to rethink how data centers are built and operated. Whether you are in the 16% of respondents planning to construct new facilities or not, now is the time to examine the assumptions of traditional designs rather than get caught up retrofitting outdated facilities.
Companies such as Facebook are leading the charge with innovative designs for servers, power consumption, and cooling. Learning from them makes sense even for companies that aren't building new, as it can bring them closer to a next-generation data center.
The Road Most Traveled
Our survey on the state of the data center shows 54% of respondents say resource demands in their data centers are increasing, but only 29% say their budgets will increase compared with last year's. It's the perennial rock and a hard place for IT.
To cope, the vast majority aims to squeeze efficiencies out of existing facilities. IT is betting heavily on consolidation, virtualization, and new hardware to meet usage demands while also managing costs. Server consolidation and virtualization is far and away the strategy most adopted to address increasing resource demands in the data center: Seventy-eight percent of respondents are virtualizing and consolidating servers.
Server Market SplitsvilleJust because the server market's in the doldrums doesn't mean innovation has ceased. Far from it -- server technology is enjoying the biggest renaissance since the dawn of x86 systems. But the primary driver is now service providers, not enterprises.