What will the year 2009 bring for the data center sector? The big story will be the economy, and how companies balance the mission-critical nature of their data center operations with the new austerity.
"With revenue growth and profitability at risk for many companies in today’s global economy, IT and Infrastructure plans will be scrutinized as never before," said Christian Belady, Principal Power & Cooling Architect for Microsoft. "As a result, a company’s growing IT demands will need to be met with existing infrastructures, and efficiency will be more important. Data center costs will need to be flat or decrease to maintain viability.
"Even more importantly, companies will need to do more with less, which will create the stimulus for greater adoption of new technologies and processes that improve both IT and infrastructure utilizations."
The changed economic climate will drive a renewed focus on productivity within the data center in 2009, agreed Jack Pouchet, director of energy initiatives for Emerson Network Power, who said he expects continued focus on data center efficiency metrics.
"Given the severe restrictions on budgets and the paucity of capital, everyone from line managers to the C-suite will need, to paraphrase Jerry McGuire, to 'show me the productivity,' ” said Pouchet. "This attention to productivity will shift the data center discussion away from PUE (Power Usage Effectivness), which is merely a ratio of power distribution with no impact on productivity, and towards defining a MPG metric for servers, storage, networks and the data center as a whole."
Such data is critical to helping managers make a reliable cost-benefit analysis on new hardware purchases - which require a capital outlay but could bring long-term cost savings through improved energy efficiency. Emerson has advanced a new metric called Compute Units per Second (CUPS) to quantify the performance gains delivered by more powerful chips and servers.
"Once we can begin to wrap our arms around the idea of useful work, be it through CUPS or other proxies, then we can truly drive productivity improvements, not only in the data center but throughout the enterprise," said Pouchet. "The shift will be to monitor, track, and report units of useful work against energy, manpower, capital, and other resources in order to identify logical strategies for improving operational efficiencies."
This could also be an important year in data center design, as enterprises get a stronger understanding of the potential for containers and other innovative approaches like Microsoft's Generation 4 design,
"A key trend for 2009 will be the reaction by pundits and actual implementation of pilot chillerless, roofless data centers as described by Microsoft," said Deborah Grove, a Principal with Grove Associates who writes a Green IT blog. "Who will build these after Microsoft? How much cost savings? How much energy savings? Will it dramatically change fundamental data center design over the next 12 to 18 months?"
The data center industry will likely continue to seek ways to incorporate renewable energy into their power usage, which could generate activity for the many firms that provide data center services..
"The move to an increased use of renewable and alternative energy sources will drive demand for engineering services, manufacturing, design, data bases, and utility along with CO2 tracking, metering, and reporting services - all of which will drive computational and data center demand," said Pouchet.
"We can expect to see the continued growth of large-scale privately owned and operated power generation systems," he added. "It is feasible that we will see multi-megawatt class solar thermal systems or combined PV/thermal technology being deployed in campus-like environments were several data center operators combine to own or lease a shared power generation system."