Jeff Klaus is the Director of Data Center Solutions at Intel  Corporation, where he has managed various groups for more than 12 years. Klaus’s team is pioneering data center power and thermal management solutions, which are sold through an ecosystem of data center infrastructure management (DCIM) software and hardware companies around the world.
Another year’s end, and we’re in the midst of another holiday season. Besides anticipating time off, family celebrations, and gift giving, every IT professional should be anticipating—and planning for—the challenges relating to data center energy management in 2013.
On the First Day of Data Center Christmas: IT Transformation
The data center has moved from a support business to a mission-critical resource. Next year, I could argue that the data center will become the most-critical resource. The elevation of the data center is being driven by demands for transaction speed and exploding numbers of devices and applications used for sales, service, operations, HR, and practically every functional area. Business users will continue to expect more from the data center. They want to improve their productivity with increasingly self-service capabilities, customization, on-demand services, and, above all, reliability that translates to highly available data center services.
Second Day: Organizational Disconnects
Historically, the various IT and facilities teams worked separately. Rarely did hardware, software, networking, and facilities teams come together, and if they did, they rarely understood each other. The 2013 outlook, with escalating energy costs and a continued sluggish global economy, calls for increasing focus on power optimization, and that means providing tools that not only work for all of the various teams, but encourage cooperation among the teams.
Third Day: Affordability of Servers and Storage Drives Up Demand
Dramatic server/storage price reductions over the last decade have led to mass migrations of tasks to online and automated platforms, thus driving up energy consumption in the data center. Power and cooling have become significant portions of the budget; some argue power has become the single biggest expense.
Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Days: Virtualization, Clouds, and Mobility Change Energy Profiles
Rapid change is nothing new in the data center, but 2013 will see several major technology trends gaining wide-scale acceptance. Virtualization is expanding from servers into desktop infrastructure, and users are demanding the flexibility and rapid provisioning that is only possible within a private or public cloud environment. Mobility adds another layer of complexity, as employees bring their own smart devices to work, thus driving up network traffic and server workloads with apps and anytime, anywhere access to data center resources. The data center is being bombarded with service requests, and large companies are already hitting the power restrictions of their facilities as well as the limits of some local utility companies to meet their needs.
Seventh Day: Natural Disaster Preparedness
The 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan and this year’s hurricane season that included Sandy’s devastation of New York and surrounding states are vivid reminders that every data center should be continually refining its disaster plans. The 2013 challenge will be to ensure that disaster plans include prolonging operation with backup power supplies. Disaster recovery should be elevated to a data center best practice, supported by a management solution that offers on-the-fly server adjustments to minimize power draw.
Eighth Day: Battling Methodologies and Tools
Natural disasters are one of the driving forces fueling growth of co-location (colo) facilities. Since many colo companies position their services as insurance for any power outage situation, some are among the early adopters of intelligent energy management solutions. Others have developed their own power management tools, and these will increasingly impact off-the-shelf DCIM solutions.
Ninth Day: The Search for Holistic DCIM Solutions
The ongoing debates about energy management approaches are driving the demand for and evolution of holistic DCIM platforms. Data center teams should look for solutions based on real-time data collection versus less-accurate predictive models. With fine-grained thermal and power monitoring, a DCIM solution should enable a data collection that feeds into holistic analysis and ultimately control of energy behaviors.
Tenth Day: Budget-Restricted Technology Roll-Outs
Of course, even the best solution doesn’t automatically override the budget restrictions stemming from global economic uncertainty. Therefore, data center managers will likely aim for smaller-scale trials and proofs of concepts than originally planned. A phased-in deployment should still be designed to achieve the same results over the long term, with each phase essentially self-funding the next phase with the proven gains in energy efficiency.
Eleventh Day: Vendor Consolidation
DCIM will continue to mature and, along with economic pressures, the rapid rate of change may likely lead to vendor consolidation. This will include large vendors buying up smaller tool vendors, to accelerate the development of their platforms. Maturation ultimately benefits the customer, however, and so the challenge here will be to avoid investments in solutions that may get swallowed up by competitors.
Twelfth Day: Inability to Predict the Future
As the year comes to a close, we are left with many unknowns about the DCIM market and how energy management in the data center will look a year from now. How will the market size compare to the 2013-2014 predictions? What will it take to move the technology to the next level?
We will all be watching and analyzing market movements, but ultimately data center demand will drive the technology. And this demand is growing at a healthy pace. Slow economy or not, energy costs are not going to suddenly plummet. More likely, energy demand will drive up prices, and governments will continue to increase energy taxes. DCIM solutions that build in proactive, fine-grained energy management capabilities are the best—and perhaps only—way to keep the data center sufficiently supplied without breaking the budget.
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