Five Bold Predictions, Three Years Later

AFCOM has updated its Five Bold Predictions, a 2006 research projects that looked at key issues in the data center, to see how the original findings have been altered by the financial crisis.

AFCOM's Data Center Institute is perhaps best known for its Five Bold Predictions, a 2006 research projects that looked at key issues in the data center. The group has revisited those predictions with another survey of AFCOM's user base of data center managers to see how the original findings have been altered by the financial crisis. We'll dig deeper on some of these over the next few days, but let's start with a look at AFCOM's predictions and their update:

Prediction 1: By 2015, the talent pool of qualified senior level technical and management data center professionals will shrink by 45 percent.

"Due to the recession, the shrinking of the talent pool of senior level technical and management data center professionals has actually sped up," reports AFCOM founder Leonard Eckhaus. AFCOM’s recent survey of its membership showed that 9.6 percent of all data centers expect staff cuts as part of broader cost-cutting initiatives.

Those cuts come against the backdrop of an aging data center workforce. AFCOM more than 60 percent of all IT workers with mainframe experience are at least 50 years old. "We've been looking for a mainframe person now for three years," said Tom Roberts, director of data center facilities at the Trinity Health hospital chain.

That means some data center managers are working longer. "In many cases older, higher paid employees, the ones with the most knowledge and experience, have been offered buy-outs and this has resulted in many taking early retirement and not reentering the work force," said Eckhaus. "Of course, the other side of this is that with many people being layed off and retiring, the demand for that knowledge is higher than ever, so some people who were panning to retire, but have lost too much of their investment savings, are continuing to work because they can no longer afford to retire."

Prediction #2: By 2010, more than half of all data centers will have to relocate to new facilities or outsource some applications.

"This has slowed down," said Eckhaus. "Our most recent survey shows that 40.1 percent of all data centers cutting budgets will have to delay or cancel a planned physical expansion or relocation. Because of this, we believe we’ll see an increase in outsourcing as data center space gets tighter and capital spending drains up."

Prediction #3: Over the next five years, power failures and limits on power availability will halt data center operations at least once at more than 90% of all companies.

"This still stands," said Eckhaus. "We do not foresee any changes in this prediction."

Prediction #4: By 2010, nearly 70 percent of all data centers will utilize some form of grid computing or other virtual processing.

Virtualization has been adopted even faster than expected by the DCI 2006 findings. AFCOM's survey from November 2008 found that 86 percent of data centers expect to increase the use of virtualization. The enthusiasm for virtualization hasn't yet translated into a shift to cloud computing, however. More than 77 percent of AFCOM respondents said they were not planning to increase their use of cloud computing.

"People have a lot of reservations about cloud computing because they are not sure just what it is, and there is not one clear definition of it," said Eckhaus.

Prediction #5: Within the next five years, one out of every four data centers will experience a business disruption serious enough to affect the entire company’s ability to continue business-as-usual.

AFCOM says its survey found many data center managers concerned that recent budget cuts could make disruptions more likely. The survey found that 11.5 percent of the members who were making budget cuts believed those measures would lead to an increase in service interruptions. None of the AFCOM board members offered examples of such disruptions, and most enterprises would be unlikely to publicize business   by staff cuts.

One AFCOM board members noted that technology makes physical security less dependent on staff. "one of the things allowing this to happen is that security has been driven to the rack level," said Rick Sawyer of HP's EYP Mission Critical unit. "The technology is replacing the need for physical security."

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