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March 18, 2010
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Cover Story artCorporate America has made some painful adjustments over the past year, but for data center managers, the pressure to contain costs has always been unrelenting--it's impossible to maintain a low profile when your area of responsibility consumes the bulk of the IT budget. This year in particular, though, we're really feeling the heat, and not just from overloaded racks. Just 30% of the 370 respondents to our latest InformationWeek Analytics data center survey say they'll see larger budgets for 2010 compared with 2009, yet half expect resource demands to increase.
The good news is that judicious use of a few key emerging technologies can yield big returns, as will a renewed focus on efficiency. Data center efficiency isn't just about going green. Despite budgetary and business pressures, the servers keep rolling in the door and the power needs keep growing. So we need to step back and consider options outside our comfort zones--for example, running your data center a few degrees hotter can pay big dividends if you have the gumption to try it. Other advances are also helping CIOs extend the lives of their data centers through more efficient operations; we'll profile six here.
William Dougherty, director of systems support at Virginia Tech University, is looking to server virtualization and consolidation to handle some physical space and electrical power issues. Because of the university's tight budget, it's using the open source Xen hypervisor instead of VMware, and it's reviewing older equipment, particularly pieces it's housing for departments outside of IT, to try to bring that gear in line with its life-cycle management guidelines. "Removing two or three really old servers can often free up enough space and electrical power to add five or six--and sometimes more--new servers," Dougherty says.
That brings us to another sore point for survey respondents. Higher density doesn't always translate directly into better power efficiency; it can be both a solution and a problem. Pack more gear into less space, and you just created an expensive cooling problem for quite possibly zero net power savings. In fact, it can create the false impression that the data center has plenty of room to install more of that high-density equipment.
How could we be out of power when we still have empty racks, right?
John Hardman, a consultant in Research Triangle Park, N.C., who managed data center organizations for two global tech companies over a 15-year period, says the financial climate has moved data centers into the limelight--with somewhat ironic results. "After years and years of data centers being the forgotten tower of IT, cloud computing and the economic and environmental trends highlighting the need for power conservation are changing the calculation," Hardman says. "While I was managing a huge global data center organization, I saw data center professionals beg for resources to make changes that would have saved money by reducing power consumption, but they only received funds when the global economy started to tank."
Resource management may not seem like an obvious way to squeeze more life out of the data center, but based on our survey and experience, there are significant opportunities here. Still, gaps in technical knowledge and disparate vendor sets mean a gulf separates facilities and IT groups in terms of the systems used for resource management, and more. Bridging this tools--and often cultural--gap should be a key effort in 2010.
Get our full report on 2010 data center trends free for a limited time.
This report includes 43 pages of action-oriented analysis, packed with 22 charts.
What you'll find:
Why IT vendors delivering powerful data center automation tools is just part of the battle.
Think 90 degrees is just for the beach? Not so, says ASHRAE.
The Top 5 vendors for room-cooling products.
Details on a bright spot in our trends report: staff training and professional development.
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