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Trends for 2012: Data Center Design & Operations

The interior of an IO Anywhere module, one of the growing number of modular solutions on the market.

What's ahead in data center design and operations for 2012? We asked readers of Data Center Knowledge to submit their predictions, and here's what some of them see on the horizon for 2012:

Mickey Zandi, Sungard Availability Services

Mickey Zandi, Ph.D., is a managing director at SunGard Availability Services.

Enterprises will continue to face global economic pressures in 2012, and as a result, IT departments will have to grapple with budgets reduced even further. Perhaps more than any time in the past three years, there will be a strong push in 2012 to transition costly data center operations into fluid and efficient processes that deliver savings.

Consolidation in the data center will be theme for the coming year, as IT departments will be asked to look for ways to achieve convergence without losing capability. Just as virtualization and cloud computing took several years to gain acceptance by businesses, consolidation of large parts of an enterprise IT structure may not be adopted initially. But ultimately, consolidation can help businesses save money on day-to-day operations, which means its adoption should be a painless decision for most organizations.

The question for IT and other C-level executives in 2012 will be, “How are you burning your calories?” In other words, how effectively have you configured your data centers and what are you doing to improve efficiency and resiliency.

IT executives should look to consolidate physical data centers into one centralized site, or at least to a reduced number of leased or owned facilities in aggregate. Inside the data center, operations should be more modularized; consolidation of the data center should be accompanied by a lessened need for IT monitoring and management.

Once organizations understand how infrastructure maps to specific business goals, they can identify opportunities for consolidation and transform data center operations from a cost center to a value-based center.

Daniel Bowers, Ideas International

Daniel Bowers is VP & Senior Analyst at Ideas International.

Trend: Purpose-built solutions sprout like weeds, and invade the data center

Appliance-like bundles of servers, storage, and software can show higher efficiencies for specific workloads than gear assembled from separate, general-purpose pieces. The appeal of deploying converged kits like Oracle’s Exadata, VCE Vblock, and SAP HANA for targeted applications will drive their adoption. In turn, data center operations that have been focused on ruthless standardization will be forced to accommodate these devices into their otherwise-homogeneous, industry-standard environments. From building out special niches on the data center floor to bridging systems management tools, data center operators will be forced to approve more “Exception Requests” in 2012 to handle these fit-for-a-purpose interlopers.

Anthony D'Ambrosi, IO

Anthony J. D'Ambrosi serves as Chief Sales and Marketing Officer of IO. With 24 years of IT and technology leadership experience to IO, D'Ambrosi has held senior positions at Reuters, Hewlett-Packard, Deutsche Telekom T-Systems and ACS.

  • The adoption of modular, hardware and software enabled, data center technology will evolve from the early adopter stages to a more main stream solution for enterprises, governments and service providers.
  • Requirements for robust DCIM software will become a key driver of data center strategies.
  • Data center consolidations will continue with a move toward higher densities and improved overall utilization.
  • More granular distinctions between containers, pods and modular will become even more evident in the marketplace.
  • More tiering of enterprise applications, and associated infrastructure service level and resiliency requirements, will drive growth in the colocation and data center outsourcing markets.
  • Capital constraints for new data center investments will drive the need for more cost effective and efficient solutions.
  • Hybrid cloud computing models will continue to grow.
  • Physical and logical Security requirements will continue to play an important role in data center decisions.

Jeff Parker, Monolith Software

Jeff Parker is the president and co-founder of Monolith Software, a maker of unifief IT infrastructure management software. For more on Monolith, see the company blog.

Technology is rife with challenges and opportunities, and 2012 will be no different. Two key trends will spark dramatic change, and create a significant gap between winners and losers:

1. Self-service will become a key differentiator. Data centers will need to deliver a menu of services that provides a la carte options. This will allow customers to fine tune their requirements in a self-service format. Just as in almost every other industry, the customer is now in the driver’s seat. Our job is to create streamlined infrastructures that enable high levels of customization per user.

2. Validation of service levels will be essential. With SLA commitments written into contracts, access to performance metrics is no longer optional. This is a given. Ideally though, a proactive management model should be adopted that goes beyond an events focus to identify precursors in performance, topological or service level data. Today, we can do this: identify potential incidents before they occur, and provide assurance of promised service levels.

Steve Carn, VMC Consulting

Steve Carn is the Director, IT Infrastructure Services at VMC Consulting, Inc.

The data center industry is primarily focused on PUE and all that is related; so in 2011 and earlier, we pleased our customers with lower energy consumption, consolidation, green initiatives and overall cost savings.

Yet, for 2012, we have an opportunity to go beyond just “pleasing” customers. We can amaze the hell out of them by focusing on better ticketing systems. We all have those legacy ticketing systems that we bought and modified or built ourselves. They rarely provide a good customer experience, and they rely too much on tribal knowledge to get things done. You have already invested a lot of time to create or refine processes; so now it’s time to implement agile technology and workflow based Business Process Management Suites that give you the power to use those processes effectively. In the year ahead, set your “tools” team (and your customers) free from the typical ticketing system long development cycle. They want to work on more challenging stuff anyway.

The second prediction for 2012 is use of internal Twitter-like feeds sent to your smart device to let you know what is going on. Your new workflow solution will give you real-time reporting (Don’t worry: your reporting team will still have enough to do.), but we need to supplement that with the ability to subscribe to a feed for projects or requests, or even a maintenance. This pushes relevant data – requests, status updates, even CE information – right to your operations teams and customers. Our teams are deep in the data center every day. Our customers are mostly away from keyboards. It’s time to really bring the smartphone into the Data Center Operations mix.