Notes and Observations from Data Center World

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MATT BUSHELL<br/>NlyteMATT BUSHELL
Nlyte

Matt Bushell is Director, Product and Corporate Marketing at Nlyte. Prior to joining Nlyte, Matt worked at IBM for more than ten years, helping to launch multiple products in their Information Management and SMB groups.

I recently had the pleasure of attending AFCOM’s Data Center World both as an exhibitor and as a session attendee, and am compelled to share some of the key trends and themes that we observed (albeit through the lens of a Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) provider) in no particular order:

1)     Data Centers themselves are changing more than we realize – In Scott Noteboom’s opening keynote (he has worked for Apple and Yahoo), Scott posited about the amount of energy per human walking the earth is consumed by Data Centers (A: ~7 watts per day). His vision (and no doubt his startup) will look to disaggregate the CPU, memory and storage, apparently far beyond just virtualization.  The other trend, is that heat density is ramping up, almost like a hockey stick, starting next year, from ~3-4 kw per rack to 8-10 in a couple years, and an expected monstrous 30 kw in 10+ years.  So those are two trends, one a bit ambiguous, the other quite real and tangible.

2)     AFCOM Data Center World’s audience is changing – The audience is strongly seguing from a more facilities audience to a strong mix of IT. In a Monday morning session on metrics, an informal survey showed a fairly even split (~150 people) of hands raised showed this – which in my opinion, is a good thing. (Noteboom, a longtime attendee of the show, also commented as such.)  A question was asked in the session, “Software – The Universal Link in Tomorrow’s Data Centers” about the rack-and-stack mentality of data center operators, and how software can play a role in changing that.  The short answer is that there needs to be a bridge for the gap between facilities, server deployment and applications, and software is an answer, but not the complete answer. Given that, it is of little surprise to the shift of audience participation at AFCOM.

3)     CFOs and CIOs don’t understand data center terminology – This is both a surprising statement and a disappointing one, but the point being that terminology that THEY do understand is key.  So if data center management is looking to indicate power costs, executives don’t care about kilowatts, but they care about dollars.  But because the data center has a square footage, and they are used to real estate costs, a data center manager should relate their costs in dollars per square foot. So this is for full investment / loading of a data center (all equipment: CRAC/CRAH, IT, even staffing and building maintenance, etc.). They also want information by business unit, but less than 10 percent of data centers have the ability to do charge backs.  For progress, some want custom metrics, e.g. by service tickets filled. (One of the presenters indicated in so many words, “If you can measure what you do, you can show, without being showy, how great a job you are doing, improving upon, and get you and your staff promoted.”)

4)     Data Center Infrastructure Management doesn’t have to be done “all at once” – This came up a couple of times, in both a metrics session, but also in a roundtable DCIM panel hosted by Jennifer Koppy of IDC.   The concept is, “walk before you run”.  In another session, “DCIM – How to Justify,” the concept of deploying via a limited pilot came up, with the bigger picture needs being (of no surprise):

  1. I have solid processes in place, just need tools to help streamline
  2. There is a major project or initiative coming, and DCIM would be a big boon
  3. There is an issue coming (e.g. capacity running out) and DCIM could help solve for management.
  4. DCIM can be justified just in saving cost of wages: how many items placed or removed per month. For example, 30 minutes saved on each end multiplied by the cost of personnel time.

5)     DCIM Industry finally gets some clarification –My colleague Mark Harris noted in a roundtable, “To talk about the DCIM market or to say that you are a vendor in the DCIM market is analogous to an automotive vendor saying they are in the automotive market: they may make tires, seat belts, powertrains, but they don’t make a car per se. It is similar in the DCIM market where there are power and monitoring providers, asset management and capacity management providers, and so forth.” Understanding that not all DCIM vendors are alike is important.

Clearly there was an immense amount of additional topics covered and findings that could take up a book, but these are the key themes that stood out for me during the conference.

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