6 Key Trends in the Data Center Following AFCOM Data Center World

Mark Harris is the vice president of marketing and data center strategy at Nlyte Software with more than 30 years experience in product and channel marketing, sales, and corporate strategy. Nlyte Software is the independent provider of data center infrastructure Management (DCIM) solutions.

Nylte Software

I attended this year’s AFCOM Data Center World held at the Mandalay Bay convention center in Las Vegas, and felt compelled to write about my experience given the excitement and exchange of ideas at the event. The emphasis of this event was on real solutions for today’s data center and facility managers. Some of the industry’s largest end-users and vendors in attendance were engaged in very real conversations surrounding today’s modern IT infrastructure and how to preserve existing data center assets confirming what we are hearing with our own customers.

The event covered a range of topics including: new ways of supporting high density computing, vendors providing some form of DCIM, convergence on standard IP-based connections for monitoring and control, questions surrounding costs for services and resources, and even an new intelligent rack system was shown. I should also mention that I was intrigued by the in-person conversations surrounding the emerging hybrid model of computing to include in-house, colocation, cloud and modular and the economics driving this mix.

Cost Discussions

What is this new model? It is about delivering IT services at a specific cost. In the past, we all operated under the umbrella of delivering IT servers at ANY cost. Today, it’s really about specific costs, and each type of service or application has different cost models. Back-office email, for instance, may have a costing model that is vastly different than e-commerce revenue transaction processing systems. The AFCOM show attendees are beginning to talk about this. The vendors are also beginning to talk about the economics, but surprisingly, most of these discussions between end-user and vendors are not aligned. The show vendors were talking about discrete product cost, while the end-users wanted to talk about service delivery costs – a clear disconnect.

It turns out that trying to quantify the total cost associated with work executed is hard to do as a vendor. The end-user sees all the pieces working together and can do some simple math to figure out their costs per unit of work. Vendors at the show seemed to struggle with that idea. They wanted to provide product costs, but had a hard time participating in bigger and more strategic discussions, which involved many components working together.

Some key observations emerged at AFCOM:

1. High-Density Data Centers – Doing More with Less
Many of the show floor vendors were demonstrating new solutions created for the world of high-density computing. Squeezing more computing into less space, powering it, and keeping it cool, with much more intelligent cooling, much higher capacity power distribution, more efficient fans and everything else needed to create the data center filled with 20kW racks. It was good to see the forward-looking solutions, in a world that currently runs 4-5kW racks on average. This density theme also manifested itself in discussions about Direct Current and Over Current Protection considerations. Unicom, ServerTech, Cooper and StarLine took the lead on these topics.

2. Vendors Jump Onto the DCIM Bandwagon
DCIM was one of the most prevalent themes throughout the show and its educational sessions. Many vendors – hardware and software vendors alike – wanted to associate with the DCIM movement. And why not? Accordingly to Gartner, Forrester and The 451 Group, adoption of DCIM is one of the biggest cost-containment opportunities for the the data center. That said, most DCIM software vendors at the show were talking about building islands. Tactical islands of must-have features offered by their products, but the discussions got very thin when looking for an off-the-shelf, strategically integrated story. (However every vendor happily volunteered to ENGINEER a custom integration on a T&M basis). This is partly due to the use of the term “DCIM” to describe anything new in the data center monitoring and management space. Many of the booth graphics stated “DCIM” in their first bullet of value, but what they actually delivered ranged all over the place. There were the big element management solution providers, the environmental and power distribution vendors, the cooling vendors and even the remote access solutions which were popular 5 years ago. End-users were just as confused with how to apply what they were seeing on the show floor to their strategic charter to get their data center economics under control.

3. The Cloud and Colocation Realities
Cloud topics proliferated across the educational sessions. Using the cloud, planning the cloud, when a cloud is required, how the cloud will fit with other styles of computing, etc. In spite of the “cloud everything” message so common recently, the mixed hybrid model of computing is clearly here to stay. While colocation vendors were limited in number at the show, it was clear that our next 10 to 15 years of computing will include some individually unique mix of in-house data centers, colocation space, cloud services and modular approaches. While most of the show was full of vendors that catered to traditional in-house data centers, a fair amount of the products shown could easily be applied to colocation space as well.

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