The four main data center trends

* Consolidation, growth, availability, operational cost

Nemertes' latest data center research involved interviews with 82 IT executives - CIOs, IT directors, data center managers, and other professionals from a range of industries and company sizes - between January and March 2006. Each company may have different challenges in the data center, but overall we discovered four main themes.

Consolidation

Whether due to regulatory compliance or the increasing cost and complexity of IT, companies of all kinds are consolidating and centralizing IT resources, including data centers. Specifically, IT managers are consolidating dozens of data centers into a few central locations, then enhancing the capacity of those few across all key areas: networking, redundancy, computing, storage and management.

This trend has significant impacts. For example, data and applications are increasingly delivered to remote users over a WAN (our research shows as few as 11% of workers work at headquarters), which in turn affects WAN architecture and management. Also, centralized data is more easily backed up, made redundant, and controlled for compliance, so consolidation is sparking major initiatives in all these areas. Finally, centralized applications, delivered over the Web, client-server protocols or thin clients, are becoming the norm, as they are easier to manage, update and patch against security exposures.

Growth

Demand for data center resources has generated tremendous growth for servers (growing 11% per year on average) and storage (growing at a median rate of 22%). Rapid growth is straining data centers’ capacities in environmental control, power, and space as companies struggle to find balance between sprawling low-density racks and super-hot and power-hungry high-density racks.

Availability

Business demand for higher availability is increasing across all industries. Half of all participants list availability as one of the top challenges. Correspondingly, almost half of the research participants are setting up secondary data centers for continuity and disaster recovery, either by repurposing an existing data center, or by building new facilities in which they consolidate existing data centers. These secondary and tertiary data centers are often built more than 200 miles from the primary data center as a result of post-Katrina re-evaluations of traditional assumptions about a potential disaster’s reach.

Operational Efficiency

Companies are focusing on data-center management and operations, attempting to cut costs, improve efficiency, and better align IT spending with business needs and service demands. More than three-quarters of respondents see this as the data center’s part of a broader shift in IT culture to “IT as a service” with data centers recast as business-service delivery centers.

The emphasis on business services extends to broad adoption (more than 50%) of governance and service delivery standards such as ITIL and COBIT. Only a few companies are implementing these standards formally and in their totality, but even partial implementations can bring benefits in change-management practices and, consequently, in higher availability and lower operational costs.

Bottom Line: While data centers have existed since the dawn of computing, they are currently undergoing a major transformation. Over the next few weeks we will examine the practical implications of these four data center themes. Stay tuned!

Further details on these data center trends can be found in Nemertes’ “The New Data Center 2006: Volume 1: Overall State and Trends.”

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Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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