Data center construction is booming

According to a recent readership survey, 82% of survey respondents will build or renovate a data center between 2007 and 2008.

Earlier this year, SearchDataCenter.com conducted a readership survey regarding data center construction plans. And It's official: The data center construction boom is on. In a survey conducted in October and November of this year by SearchDataCenter.com, most members are building, renovating or expanding their data centers in 2007 or 2008.

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Data center construction boom through 2008
In 2007, 22% of survey respondents said they were involved in a data center construction project. More than 60% of respondents will be involved with construction in 2008. And only 18% of respondents will not undertake a data center construction project in 2007 or 2008.

The data didn't surprise Chris Crosby, senior vice president at San Francisco-based data center real estate giant Digital Realty Trust Inc. (DRT). "Those numbers match up not only with what we've heard from customers anecdotally, but they also match what we found in a study we commissioned earlier this year with  Campos Research [and Analysis LLC]," Crosby said. Recent research by SearchDataCenter.com sister sites also supports these findings.

The energy and airflow requirements for [high-end] systems [and blade servers] almost require a re-build.
Joe Clabby,
analystClabby Analytics

Conducted in May 2007, the DRT/Campos Research study found that over the next 24 months, more than 80% of U.S. companies plan to expand their data centers.

"The breakdown of 2007 expansions versus 2008 expansions is also very similar" to SearchDataCenter.com's, findings, said Crosby. "In our study, we found that a third of companies were planning projects in the next 12 months, looking at the time frame of spring 2007 to spring 2008. And roughly 50% were planning expansions in the following 12 months."

Disaster recovery drives data center growth
According to our survey, disaster recovery (DR) is the central driver of data center growth: Roughly 25% of survey respondents listed DR as their No. 1 motivation for data center construction.

According to Bill Peldzus, an analyst at Framingham, Mass.-based consulting firm GlassHouse Technologies Inc., companies are building new data centers for failover at a remote site. "DR is one of the top things people are thinking about," Peldzus said. "If they're building a second data center for disaster recovery, they don't want [both facilities] affected by the same threat—a power outage or hurricane, for example."

Companies can turn to a colocated or managed-services provider for DR needs, but mission-critical IT shops with stringent recovery objectives may be more comfortable owning their DR strategy. "What if a company calls SunGard, and they're full?" Peldzus asks. "The availability need drives build versus buy."

Crosby said the DRT study indicated a similar trend: Disaster recovery was the No. 1 driver in Europe and was No. 2 in the U.S., behind application growth.

"But disaster recovery and new applications go hand in hand in many ways, because so many of the new applications being deployed are considered mission critical, increasing the need for advanced disaster recovery systems," Crosby said.

DR was followed closely by a lack of space and the need for additional power as drivers for data center growth. The three factors are interrelated. Companies are running out of space and power because of application growth. Many of these applications require robust disaster recovery technologies. And the new server technologies deployed to meet application growth demand more than data centers' current infrastructure can deliver.

According to Joe Clabby at Yarmouth, Maine-based research firm Clabby Analytics, the server market has bifurcated, and companies are scaling up toward high-end systems and scaling out to blade servers. "The energy and airflow requirements for these systems almost require a rebuild," Clabby said. "Companies can't operate the same way they did with distributed rack and tower systems."

Peldzus has also observed this trend. "Typically when companies are looking at a new technology around consolidation or green strategies, it is part of an overall data center project."

Indeed, it's not clear that companies are yet in a green mood. SearchDataCenter.com will report next month on a broad survey of TechTarget members. Survey results indicate that in 2008, green computing remains a minor initiative. For the moment, many companies are simply feeding the energy consumption beast by building new data centers to provide additional raw power for an increasing number of servers.

Whether companies are consolidating multiple data centers into one or building a site to create a better DR posture, there is a more concerted effort to use additional data center space to create cost savings. "There are a lot of good success stories out there; that's why more people are going into this next year."

Virtual hardware, advanced storage and high-bandwidth network adoption
The desire to consolidate has led the overwhelming majority of those planning new data centers to include server virtualization in their plans. But in general, new data centers will be technologically different from their predecessors.

Respondents plan to implement a host of new technologies in their new data centers (see Table 1). More than 85% plan to implement server virtualization, 54% plan to implement disk-based backup, 42% storage virtualization and 37% 10 Gigabit Ethernet. Add to these high new-technology adoption numbers the adoption of new but more established technologies, such as Fibre Channel storage, network-attached storage and the "next-gen data center" that has been discussed in recent years appears to have arrived.

Table 1: Adoption of new technologies

Server virtualization 85.84%
Fibre Channel storage 61.95%
Disk-based backup 53.98%
Storage virtualization 42.48%
Network-attached storage 40.71%
10 Gigabit Ethernet 37.17%
Green-computing technology 33.63%
WAN acceleration 30.97%
iSCSI storage 26.55%
InfiniBand 8.85%
Liquid cooling 7.96%

ABOUT THIS SURVEY:  In fall 2007, SearchDataCenter.com conducted its first annual data center construction survey. Subscribers were contacted by email and invited to participate. For this survey, we had a total of 211 respondents. Thanks to everyone who participated in the survey. Let us know what you think about the data center construction survey; email Matt Stansberry, Site Editor.

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