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The Obama effect on IT operations: Data center panel weighs in

How will President Obama's plans for the coming year affect data center managers? Our advisory panel weighs in on how the Obama effect will impact IT operations.

Will President Obama's campaign promises bring change for data centers? How will increased oversight of financial systems affect IT operations? Continued digitization of health care? Increased likelihood of passing carbon cap-and-trade legislation that would affect energy prices? Incentives for green business?

W e asked our data center advisory board, made up of CIOs, facilities execs, admins and analysts, how the Obama administration will affect IT operations.


Digitizing health records may have the largest impact
I think it's still a bit too soon to gauge how the Obama presidency will affect IT, if at all. Much has been made of his and his staff's use of technology, specifically their use of the Web to organize supporters and publish information about the government. However, I think that his efforts on the stimulus bill will have the largest effect on individual consumers and their access to technology and less on overall IT operations, at least as it concerns the average systems administrator.

He might further encourage green data centers, but the large players like Microsoft and Google are already working on that initiative. If he does succeed in digitizing health records, that will certainly have a dramatic effect on IT in the healthcare industry, but I think with all of these things it will take longer than a year for us to start to see an impact.

-- Kyle Rankin, senior systems architect and author


Obama stimulus package could translate into more IT jobs
The new administration seems to be more tech savvy than those preceding it. I would like to see this deeper understanding of the potential of computing technology make the executive branch friendlier to IT companies provide more support for infrastructure and other digital issues. Obama also wants to use some of the economic stimulus package for research into alternative energy sources and greener technology. I have a feeling this development will need to be "smart," which translates into more IT jobs.

On the campaign trail, Obama pledged to stop sending jobs overseas. It will be interesting to see if that applies to IT jobs and call centers. Then there's the question of what he wants to do with the H-1B visa system that allows companies to import technical workers into the United States. I haven't heard any specific direction from this administration yet, but changing the limits or reforming the system could impact the IT job market in the next few years.

The crash of the financial sector of our economy will of course bring more regulation. I don't know if it will be anything as onerous as Sarbanes-Oxley, but we can at least count on more reporting and tighter auditing controls.

-- Robert Crawford, lead systems programmer, mainframe columnist


Flexibility is the key to managing change 
I expect to be affected in a number of ways. First and most directly, the new administration will have different priorities, which will be reflected in our budgets. This happens every time there is a new administration. Second, the administration is probably going to push energy efficiency, which will impact our server architecture and push us faster toward virtualization. The energy efficiency initiatives will likely impact our vendors as well, which will eventually affect their pricing.

Bottom line: There will be changes, but it is probably too early to be very specific about what they'll entail. The ability to react quickly and correctly to changes is part of every CIO's job description.

-- Robert Rosen, CIO at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


 Prepare to report on carbon emissions for the data center
I think one of the things that we can expect is that companies will be required to report carbon emissions, and a significant part of the emissions will be from data centers. Many of you may know that I have advocated the importance of measurement over the years, and those who have embraced [a measurement strategy] will find carbon reporting trivial.

For Microsoft, tools like Scry can report carbon emissions already at the server, rack or data center level. A few other companies are doing the same. For the rest, adoption and investment of real time measurement techniques will need to happen fast. As a result, companies will have to spend much of their resources making this happen in an unforgiving economy -- not the best place to be.

-- Christian Belady, P.E., principal power and cooling architect, Microsoft


 Obama will inspire large corporations to get out of the dark ages
The Obama presidency is already using modern information technology to make the actions and operations of the administration more transparent and accessible online. Unlike the previous one, this administration sees computers and the Internet as tools to be used to their fullest potential. Obama's weekly addresses on YouTube, and the new White House Web page, blog, and RSS feed are only tiny first steps in this direction; there's definitely more to come. In turn, I hope that this will encourage other large organizations and companies to do much of the same to get out of the IT "dark ages" and use the Internet for open communication with customers.

-- Bill Bradford, senior systems administrator, SunHELP.org


More shovel-ready projects for IT infrastructure? 
I think the largest thing you'll see affecting IT operations in 2009 will be financial crises not just in the form of cutbacks and scale-downs, but also the process of sorting through all the recent mergers that have taken place.

That said, I'm hopeful that the Obama infrastructure spending will net some cash for IT as well. All of those "shovel-ready" projects require IT for management and collaboration needs.

There's a lot of talk of getting broadband to rural areas, but this seems like something politicians have said for years, if not a decade or more -- we'll see if it's delivered this time. Here in Texas you can drive on the highways between towns and see large spools of fiber being put into the ground. It'd be great to finally realize all our dark fiber dreams, but I'm far from holding my breath that we'll catch up with South Korea.

Clearly, the decree of transparency is something to pay attention to as well. The amount of social media on Whitehouse.gov is extremely high for such a mainstream site. If that approach works for the Obama White House, I can see how other businesses and organizations may look to their IT departments and ask the question, "How can we get some of that?"

The angle to watch is how Obama and the Democratic National Committee use the email addresses, Twitter followers and other IT-based methods of raising money and getting votes. Again, for IT, the idea is to proactively figure out how businesses can profit from such campaigns and the use of Web 2.0 (and even Web 1.0) IT resources. Justifications like "It got a dude elected president" could look pretty good in project proposals and business cases.

-- Michael Coté, analyst, RedMonk


 Meet the new boss, same as the old boss
The President of the United States is not a dictator (thankfully), but is instead merely the head of one branch of government. The branch of government with the most impact on IT operations is Congress, the branch that passes laws. Government timetables are long and plodding, measured in decades. IT timetables are measured in months, even weeks. The inauguration of a new head of the executive branch should have very little near-term impact on IT operations.

-- Chuck Goolsbee, data center executive, Digital Forest


 Stay tuned to Secretary of Energy, TIGR developments
The best advice is probably to stay tuned. As we all know very well, campaign trail positions taken, promises made and intentions announced have mixed realizations when the presidency is launched, and spin masters make their living connecting those dots. However, some tangible moves have already been made that might provide us with an indication of things to come. For example, the appointment of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories' (LBNL) lead proponent on energy efficiency, Steven Chu, to the position of Secretary of Energy is noteworthy. LBNL was contracted to study data center energy consumption. Could that mean that increased government interest in, or even regulation of, data center energy consumption could be on the horizon?

There has been much press regarding the creation of the Technology, Innovation and Government Reform (TIGR) group and the initiatives it is crafting. One related initiative being promoted by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, titled "The Digital Road to Recovery: A Stimulus Plan to Create Jobs, Boost Productivity and Revitalize America," makes the case for broadband network expansion, health IT in the form of interoperable Electronic Health Records and a smart power grid that would more efficiently distribute our precious electrical energy. While these and other matters take shape, we can better begin to anticipate the impact on the IT community. However, as always, only time will tell for sure. Therefore, we all need to stay tuned.

-- Ben Stewart, senior vice president of facility engineering, Terremark

Be sure to check out our other data center advisory board panel discussions:

How will data centers weather the economic downturn?

Data center panel weighs cloud computing risks, rewards

Data center user groups influence career development

What did you think of this feature? Do you have a question for our data center advisory board? Write to SearchDataCenter.com's Matt Stansberry about your data center concerns at mstansberry@techtarget.com.

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