As AFCOM Turns 35, Data Center World Makes Full Circle
Las Vegas Boulevard (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

As AFCOM Turns 35, Data Center World Makes Full Circle

Brings education on IT, facilities, power, and cooling under one roof

AFCOM is turning 35 this year, and the upcoming Data Center World Spring conference in Las Vegas will be an anniversary celebration and start of the next chapter in the life of one of the data center industry’s oldest professional organizations.

In a way, AFCOM, one of the sister companies of Data Center Knowledge, is coming full circle. Launched in 1980 as the Association for Computer Operations Management, it was an organization for mainframe operators, who were really the world’s first data center managers. For two decades the organization was focused on education for a range of data center professions, be it network management, storage, compute, or facilities. Then came changes.

One of the fallouts of the energy crises of the early 2000s was sudden public scrutiny of the internet’s power consumption. The coal lobby was pushing a narrative (quite successfully) that for the internet to continue to grow at the same rate, coal was essential to ensuring there was enough energy to power data centers.

Public pressure aside, the fact that data center facilities were inefficient and needed to get better at utilizing power they used was clearer to data center operators than it was to anyone else. As a result, a lot of focus at AFCOM meetings shifted to facilities management. It was necessary.

“In the 2000s, we got pretty heavy into the facility side,” AFCOM President Tom Roberts recalled. “This year, we did something different.”

This year’s Data Center World program will have better balance between IT and facilities, he said. There are three specific educational tracks: IT infrastructure management, facilities management, and power and cooling.

On the IT management side of things, Microsoft’s lead enterprise architect Paul Slater is going to talk about running services at global scale. George Clement, a software engineer on Intel’s Data Center Manager software team, will talk about using new telemetry data in server platforms to drive efficiency in server utilization.

Arup Chakravarty, director of network engineering at the insurance company MetLife, will talk about using information about applications running in the data center to make proactive capacity planning decisions, from virtualization and security to physical infrastructure.

Those are just a few examples. There will also be sessions on disaster recovery, switching and routing, storage management, and the role of network engineers in the software-defined data center.

That’s in addition to a slew of sessions on facilities management, power, and cooling.

Together, the three tracks are meant to cover all aspects of the data center under one roof. “I can’t think of anybody in the data center profession today that wouldn’t get something out of this,” Roberts said.

Getting people who work on different parts of the data center infrastructure together in one room has always been important, but today, when there is market pressure on enterprises to develop software and on vendors to make it easy for developers to ship the software they write, comprehensive data center management is crucial, because new software is coming down the pipe faster than it ever has.

Collaboration between facilities and IT “is definitely necessary, and we see it more today than we did five years ago,” Roberts said.

The five-day Data Center World Spring conference starts this Sunday at the Mirage in Las Vegas.

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