This article originally appeared in the Feb. 2011 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY Magazine.
Over the past few years, one can’t talk about data centers without including the topic of greening the data center through improved efficiency. By moving toward a focus on efficiency, data center operators throughout the world have found ways to improve reliability and reduce costs by focusing on green data center strategies. As we move forward into the tweens of the new millennium, there are a few areas that will shape the data center industry.
First Focus – Savings for the Business
The first task for the data center management team will be to increase savings by better integrating the data center strategy with the business mission. The efficiency gains brought forth in recent years by the industry emphasis on PUE and other energy-centric metrics did not always yield optimal savings increases for the business. CIOs will continue to improve their models of data center operations. They will also strive to better understand how the data center generates revenue for the company and how the data center draws down on company resources through operations.
Second Focus – Improve Business Flow
The first step to efficiency within the data center is the creation of a production platform for deployment of company applications. The trends in recent years of virtualization and cloud deployments have provided many forward-thinking CIOs with excellent tools that can be used to further business missions. One limitation to the utilization of these tools is in the automation of deployment and management of the systems. Without creating automated services, CIOs will in effect create yet another layer of management and another group of hands and eyes that are required to keep the data center services up and running. By focusing on the tools that will allow for automated deployment of virtualized and cloud-enabled systems, CIOs will bring the computing resources right to the fingertips of the business strategists and the business integrators, thereby keeping headcount down and reducing opportunity for manual interruptions on the assembly line.
Third Focus – Conserve Capital Expenditures
While no one likes to dwell on it, the last few years have not been kind to many businesses. Many companies that overbuilt in 2007 aren’t around anymore to tell their tales. The CIOs of 2011 are survivors of the recessionary era, and they are savvy about retaining capital for critical business interests and M&A activity. However, CIOs who were active in the 2002-2005 business climate know that if you get behind the innovation curve, you will become yesterday’s news even more quickly than you would by over spending. The solution is a search for a balance of capital control and flexibility in design. By choosing outsourced solutions CIOs will be able to tap into resources that deploy quickly without stranding important capital resources. And for in-house requirements, companies will look for commodity solutions that integrate seamlessly between the company systems and those of the upstream infrastructure providers.
Forth Focus – Manage Security Risks
Whether it be outsourcing infrastructure, integrating with public cloud technologies, or improving the mobile capabilities of the workforce, the CIO has many options for technical advancement of the corporate IT strategy. But it is ultimately the management’s responsibility to adapt the infrastructure to take on these technologies without risking the established best practices for business-critical topics. Security tops the list. For outsourced data center solutions, the security team will need a provider that has a clear SLA and open book accounting of security principles that it implements while delivering the outsourced services. For public, private, or hybrid cloud and even mobile computing solutions, the security teams must develop network security solutions that will be able to connect existing users with the new resources and tools. Without forward thinking on security solutions, many of the great ideas of 2011 will be completely inaccessible to the revenue generators.
Fifth Focus – Regulation of Data Centers
Here is a trend that isn’t going to stop any time soon. Use any other industry as a guide, and you will see that regulation will increase over time until a steady state is achieved and the fluctuations become the gradients of political will within the established governing bodies. Federal regulators are just now exploring ways in which to regulate the energy efficiency of data centers (EnergyStar and ASHRAE 90.1, for example) and the trend will not stop within the four walls of the data centers. The Green Grid (News - Alert) recently released their concept for a CUE, a carbon usage effectiveness metric for the data center. Provided that this takes off in a way similar to the acceptance of the PUE metric, we can expect that data centers will become directly tied to the regulatory efforts to control carbon. Britain has delayed its flagship program by a year or two, and the United States cannot seem to get a law passed through Congress, but carbon regulation is coming. And while efficiencies are improving in everything from chips to chillers, data centers are very much an energy consumer and will be affected by energy and ultimately carbon regulations.
So the question is: How is the green data center relevant to the general trends of focus within the data center industry? The relevance begins at the energy usage itself and works its way back from there. A truly green data center solution is a solution that protects the CIOs IT strategy from the impact of potential carbon legislation. By preparing the IT network infrastructure for outsourcing, the CIO can take advantage of existing data center products that provide a regulatory hedge while not over-committing critical business capital. Once the location and the energy source are network-ready and secured, the CIO can go about filling the data center – physically and virtually – with the automated tools that are most efficient and best integrated with the company’s business mission.
Tate Cantrell is CTO at Verne Global.
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Edited by Stefania Viscusi