New data center dynamics at play

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- Jeff

The first building block and most important ingredient in the network data center has always been space (not outer space, mind you--the physical kind). But space is expensive, and unless you already have too little of it (in which case you have other problems), buying, leasing and using space is an inherently speculative business. We are talking not only about real estate, but about the physical footprint for data center equipment.

The Data Center Institute put out a report in 2006 that estimated that about 50 percent of data centers (or centres, if you prefer) could be changed or consolidated by 2010. Many of them will also see staff reductions at the same time as the companies operating the centers look to reduce operational expenses. They want to automate and remotely manage the centers as much as possible. Meanwhile, those center operators also will be looking to reduce power needs.

Though it also is not lost on those data center operators, which include telcos and other carriers, that the demand for data center bandwidth will only continue to increase with each video posted to YouTube and each surge in mobile content usage during an event like the NCAA basketball tourney. That trend in itself seems to go against every other driver in the data center evolution. With operational and expense pressures, how can data center operators think about building or acquiring new data center space?

What the industry can expect in the short term then is a re-making of the network data center. Companies like Hewlett-Packard, Cisco Systems and others have jumped into the fray to help data center operators do just that. Cisco earlier this week at its Cisco Partner Summit in Honolulu (nope, wasn't there) announced the acquisition of Nuova Systems and a new Nexus 5020 access switch designed to help data center operators consolidate more gear onto a so-called unified fabric. The move is part of Cisco's Data Center 3.0 vision, which the company says operators like Savvis and BT already have endorsed. Cisco officials refer to this vision as the virtualization of the data center, extending the idea of server virtualization touted by Cisco partner VMware to a whole new level. H-P, meanwhile, talked up its own data center transformation recently at the Storage Networking World conference in Orlando, and discussed the new guidelines of data center strategy.

The expected bandwidth explosion may leave data center operators little time for indecision. If new vendor solutions are on the mark, they may be able to harness that explosion without just throwing more space at it. - Dan