Amazon's CIO Werner Vogels; Christian Teeft, director of engineering at NTT America's Enterprise Hosting Division; Russell Kurtz, principal consultant at CS Technology; David Friedlander, Integro's global technology services leader; and Paul Strong, a research scientist at eBay Research Labs, all noted that they are über-vigilant about how to maximize services without spending a mountain of cash on their current and next-generation data centers.
That's what our reporters heard from presenters at LinuxWorld in San Francisco as well as the Wall Street Technology Association's data center event in New York City on Tuesday.
Both events were sponsored and driven by hardware and software vendors looking for sales leads. But each speaker rang home the truism that it doesn't matter how many virtualized servers are in the rack or how cool your aisles are: customers demand service.
"We are driven by the market. We have no choices of our own. We have to go where no others have gone because the market demands it," eBay's Strong said in San Francisco.
David Friedlander with Integro told Wall Street attendees that his company looks at the data center from a different approach -- one that's more business oriented. Integro is using a storage area network, which connects multiple servers to centralized storage, for data backup instead of disks. Web services also help Integro administer its applications and users can access the applications through a portal.
So what's on the minds of the people who are running these next-generation data centers?
According to one industry expert, it's more about service than consolidation.
"I call it the sardine can effect -- stuffing as many guest software or operating systems in a server as you can," Andreas Antonopoulos, an analyst and senior VP with Nemertes Research, said in a press briefing last week. "Consolidation can be very valuable, but you have to make sure that consolidation isn't the only or primary driver."
Similarly, the notion of virtualization as a data center savior isn't accurate, either. Virtualization can help companies cut disaster recovery costs, since those costs still are very expensive. But not every application can be virtualized, such as real-time trading, for example.
Amazon's Vogels also noted that even with back up generators, his data centers include a cache of cell batteries to eliminate any lag time between power systems.
The challenge, of course, is that no two data centers are the same and that any partnerships or SLAs must have a baseline agreed-upon goal.
As eBay's Smart put it: "The next-generation data center has to be about changing the nature of the data center and its relationship to the business. Understanding these relationships allows you to go to your boss and say that you know the cost of delivering the value of this service."
And that's what customers are expecting.