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The Data Center of the Future: Trends in Sizes


22786121_s.jpgBy Richard L. Sawyer, Distinguished Technologist, HP CFS


In the previous blog in this series, the focus was on what the future might look like when the principles of modern manufacturing facility design are applied to the data “factory”, or what we call the data center.  It was suggested that modularity, scalability and efficiency features we find in our data center facility components (UPS, generators, chiller systems, etc.) would surface in the actual design of the data center.  Current best thinking applies these in design configurations like HP Flexible Data Center, and HP POD utility computing arrays, and widely adopting these principles as an industry is certainly in the periscope.


An obvious next question:  How big will the data center be?  We hear high density anecdotes about a specific data center having a mountain of servers and consuming 10, 12, 15, or up to 20 kilowatts per rack, but this is the exception when you look at the market data.


Is this a widespread phenomenon we have to plan for-- or does the future look a bit different?


HP builds its product and services business based on consumer trends and market studies conducted by reliable market sources.  One such source is Gartner, and in a market forecast by Jonathan Hardcastle for the years 2010-2017, and issued in 2Q13, we can see some interesting trends which tell us where data centers are going. 


First of all, the data center industry is BIG!  Looking at end-user spending in data centers on servers, networking and storage, the data center business was over $99Billion in 2013, and will continue to grow by 4-5% per year, adding up to close to $113Billion by 2017.  And that’s not counting the actual cost of the data center. – That’s just the equipment the data center supports!  


We’re talking real money here, folks!


The second trend explored in the forecast data is the maturing of the industry as it moves to The New Style of IT.  IT equipment is being consolidated from small and midsized data centers, covering up to 300 square meters, to enterprise, 500-1500 square meters, and large data centers which consist of 1500+ square meters.  By 2017, these last two categories ,enterprise and large, will account for more than an additional 880,700 square meters of computing space in the major market regions.  There will still be a dependence on very small, specific computer spaces, especially in Asia/Pacific, Latin America and Eastern Europe, but there is a marked trend towards bigger which reflects 1) efficiencies of scale, and 2) impact of Cloud computing solutions. 


“Data Factories” are indeed on the horizon.


The third trend is hard numbers of data centers.  By 2017, Gartner predicts that there will be an additional 550+ enterprise-sized data centers, and 175+ large-scale data centers.  This has strong implications for the human element.  Raw staffing numbers alone demonstrate the problem.  If 725 new data centers are to be built  and operated by 2017, and each has a minimum support staff of, say, 20 technicians and operators,  then somehow the industry has to find an additional 14,500 data center savvy personnel to meet the demand – over and above current staffing levels in the industry.   Since no college or university is graduating data center operations specialists, this poses a real problem for the industry. 


So - What can be done?


The answer probably lies in the nature of the data centers we will be creating.  Larger, and more importantly, critical to business operations, they will have to automate.  We see that trend now in the pressure for DCIM systems which enable a “single pane of glass” operating mode Our HP Converged Management Consulting Service is designed to facilitate automation.  The data centers will also have to employ the same principles of standardization, modularity and scalability in the human interface elements to make data centers simpler and easier to understand and operate correctly.  Combining DCIM and systems simplification concepts will allow data center operations staffs to operate  across similar sites remotely- and avoid duplication of effort!   Knowledge and experience will be at a premium, and will have to be strongly leveraged.


Size matters, apparently, according to what we know and can forecast.


The data center of the future will be larger, denser and have to incorporate operational strategies which respect the principles of standardization, modularity and scalability, even within the ranks of their operating staff.  


Right-sizing is not limited to square meters!


Please check out some of my other blogs on the evolving datacenter.  I would like to hear your thoughts about this topic.


The Data Factory

The metamorphosis of the data center: We have seen the future, and it is here!

Seeking harmony between IT and Facilities? Ask the right question!









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