Consolidation demands data center changes

* Consolidation is an overriding trend that necessitates data center change

Four major themes emerged in Nemertes’ latest data center research, drawn from interviews with 82 data-center managers, CIOs, IT directors and other IT executives from 65 companies across a range of industries and company sizes. Regardless of size or industry, companies were dealing with major changes centered on issues of consolidation, growth, availability and operational efficiency. We will be discussing each in turn, starting this week with consolidation.

Of the participants who had three or more data centers, approximately 74% had done data center consolidations in the past year, and about 90% were planning to consolidate in the coming year, with the sweet spot between one and four data centers.

The vast majority of folks who had done no consolidation in the last year and were not planning any in the coming year had gotten down to that optimal range already - they are not consolidating data centers because they have no more such consolidation left to do. Even they, though, are consolidating servers within their data centers, and are consolidating into their data centers services formerly provided by isolated servers in branch offices, pulling in even the lowest-end file and print services.

Faced with mounting power and cooling concerns within their data centers, half of the companies we spoke with have built new data centers in the last year, and half will be doing so in the next 18 months. In both cases, about two-thirds are building them specifically to facilitate their consolidation efforts, the rest to replace aging facilities - over half of the centers were built before 1990 - whose power and air handling systems are unable to cope with the new, dense, hot, power-hungry computing architectures.

Racks of 1U multi-processor servers or even denser concentrations of blade servers or disk have reversed the trend towards needing more and more physical space to keep up with processing needs - footprints don’t have to grow as they did in the '90s - but older data centers are now starved for power, or are melting, rather than bursting at the seams.

Building a new facility to cope with newer modes of computing also allows them to reconsider questions of resiliency and disaster. Experience with Katrina has changed the way companies think about “safe distance” in building a secondary or tertiary center, and the fact that about 90% of users will be reaching applications from any given data center over a WAN anyway means that they can put such a center just about anywhere they want, regardless of where the users are.

Faced with the myriad variables involved in upgrade, construction, placement and design of data centers, companies of all sizes should consult with specialists expert in these various fields. We recommend that companies that are large enough to do so also create a position of data center architect, a senior role responsible for strategy and planning across all the various aspects of the data center: facilities, servers, networks, storage, management, monitoring and security.

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Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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