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2011: The Year Ahead, Part 2

This working Colt Modular Data Center features modular, factory-built components that are assembled on-site, allowing a new data center to be delivered in as little as four months.

We continue with 2011: The Year Ahead, our look at predictions for key trends in the data center industry:

Data Center Industrialization Gains Steam

We’ve been tracking the growing industrialization of the data center, as large players like Digital Realty Trust and IBM use standard components, repeatable designs and supply-chain logistics to slash the cost and delivery time for data center space. Anthony Wanger, the President of i/o Data Centers, see this trend accelerating in 2011.

"The scale and pace of required to meet data center demand is large and growing," said Wanger. "It is too large and fast-paced to be solved with series of ‘snowflakes’ – a model where every data center is uniquely designed, custom built and very expensive. For this reason, the era of the ‘data center as big construction project’ is over and is being replaced by the era of mass production."

Wanger says this shift will be driven by growing adoption of modular data center designs, which can be built faster and cheaper than traditional raised-floor space.

"We expect mass produced and modular data center systems to be the foundation of the next phase of the digital revolution," said Wanger. "Modular systems have compelling advantages over ‘one off’ construction projects."

i/o Data Centers is designing future facilities using its i/o Anywhere modular data center, while CapGemini in the UK and Australia's Tier5 have built facilities optimized for customer containers. Pelio & Associates is opening a "container colo" site in Santa Clara, Calif.

“Right now, containers haven’t really changed anything,” said Jim Kerrigan, the director of the data center practice at the real estate firm Grubb & Ellis. "But what we’re going to see in 2011 is the introduction of the container in the wholesale space."

Modular designs and industrialization may represent "the beginning of the end of data center design firms," said Thiele. "2011 to 2012 will see a significant number of data center design firms begin to struggle with the fact that data centers no longer need to be unique to each owner."

Integration as Major Opportunity

Several panelists predicted that the relentless focus on cost will lead companies to change the way they plan data center projects.

"For 2011, total lowest cost of the entire data center from a holistic view will become common," said KC Mares, president of Megawatt Consulting. "Companies will look to build data centers as a complete system of IT equipment, software and infrastructure, not individual and discretely engineered systems."

"In 2011 we will see even bigger attempts to integrate even more of the infrastructure," agreed Christian Belady, Director of Hardware Architecture at Microsoft's eXtreme Computing Group. "For example, what are the opportunities for integration from the chip to the power plant that would continue to drive down costs further? Think about how one might integrate the data center with the power plant to create a ‘DataPlant.’ I believe that this is where the biggest opportunities lay."

Mares says this trend will be seen in how data center operations are managed. "Our recent progress as an energy efficiency revolution with data centers - mostly focused on reducing energy costs of the infrastructure - will evolve in 2011 to a total lowest cost of the IT operation," said Mares, who predicts that this will mean a focus on “the total cost per unit of work” of data center, servers, storage, software and networking.

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