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The Data Factory



google-datacenter-tech-01.jpgby Richard L Sawyer, Distinguished Technologist, HP Critical Facility Services


IT constantly evolves as new technologies are developed and applied to the business needs that drive the adoption of digital solutions from point of production to point of sale. Witness the migration from mainframes and dumb terminals through the PC network age to the explosion of servers and the subsequent virtualization and consolidation efforts to leverage investment and eliminate sprawl. 


A New Style of IT, which HP is currently driving, is reflective of our age of mobile computing, cloud based applications and a profound thirst for storage and bandwidth capacity.  Add in the BYOD (bring your own device) and 7x24 availability demands and the pressure on IT organizations seems to be on a geometrical acceleration curve.  


At the core of this technological metamorphosis stands the data center.  The DC is kind of the end of the rainbow in the digital cloud that is our universe.  And like the fabled pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, it has both intrinsic value (it costs a lot!) and virtual value (the data is worth a lot!), but it is still a data center – the most useful tool we have in meeting the demands for data processing capacity and availability .  The data center has morphed over the years reflecting the technologies applied to IT solutions – from mainframes to cloud based server arrays.  


But what lies ahead?


Just as virtualization, consolidation and commoditization have impacted the IT architecture, so too have those concepts impacted the data center.  There are virtual data centers comprised of networked LAN rooms, consolidated (high density) data centers packed to the top of the rack with processing hardware, and a growing commoditization through processing on demand (POD) deployments and standard design approaches like HP’s Flex Data Center which leverage a Lego-like approach to building a data center with minimal site work.


But the real next step in data centers is going to be the data factory, in this writer’s opinion.  If you look at the problem dispassionately, a data center takes in large amounts of electrons (in thousands of amps, at high voltages) and puts out large amounts of “processed” electrons in the form of “1’s” and “0’s”, which are really low voltage, low current bits of energy to be read by our compute infrastructure. 


So what if we really applied the principles of industrial design to the problem?  What would a commoditized data center look like?


Picture this:  A concrete slab is the starting building base, cheap and quick.  Employ a steel structure, steel siding enclosure, good for EMF and lightning protection.  Provide the minimum level of redundancy in power equipment by leveraging the internal redundancies of the IT data systems and applications. There is no raised floor. Racks are serviced with overhead power bus ducts and cable trays.  The plant is divided into A and B systems, each served with minimal power targets of 2.5 – 5 kW per rack which is the real world average power density.  Minimal people space: After all, it IS an equipment space, not an office.


It’s easy to visualize this configuration using today’s technology to meet tomorrow’s computing needs, and lowering the costs to a minimum to focus investment in the IT platform.


21st century data center.png


The data center will continue to evolve in response to the changing IT environment, which is driven by the business imperatives. It’s easy to see where evolution will lead:  flexible, scalable, simple solutions that minimize capital and maximize usefulness by adopting technology solutions – such as modularization, automation, system integration - in much the same way other industries have.   


HP Flexible Data Center is a giant step in that direction, bringing these principles to bear in a solution that is right for our time, while having the flexibility necessary for future applications.  Ultimately, though, the future will demand a degree of commodization of the data center that we are just beginning to experience.



Richard L Sawyer is an HP Expert and senior strategist who provides commissioning, operational consulting, and assessment services for data centers.  Learn more about Rick and his colleagues @ Meet the Experts.


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