LAS VEGAS -- Gartner Inc. research vice president Carl Claunch laid out the top 10 technologies to watch next year at the analyst firm's annual data center event yesterday. According to Claunch, it's technologies like virtualization, grid and liquid cooling that will have the most visible impact on the way data centers operate in 2007.
According to Claunch, data center pros are going to be using virtualization in three ways in the coming year. The main usage instance at this point is "division," the ability to consolidate multiple operating system images onto a single piece of hardware to improve server utilization.
The next use is what Claunch calls "teleportation" -- moving a virtual image to another box even while its code continues to execute. According to an audience poll during the session, 23% of the audience was using VMotion from VMware Inc. in a production environment to move live virtual machine instances from one machine to another, and an additional 20% were experimenting with it.
Other data centers may use virtualization for aggregation, which is the ability to boot up one copy of an operating system on multiple physical boxes, allowing them to mimic a single SMP machine.
Attendees agreed that virtualization might be the wave of the future, but there are still bugs to work out. "We've run into significant snags when we virtualize in the production environment," said Bob Conarroe, chief of informatics services at the Public Health Agency of Canada. "Novell doesn't play well with VMware. Also, when you try to virtualize certain Oracle databases, a driver on our SAN doesn't cooperate."
Another technology Gartner predicted more businesses will consider in the coming year is grid computing. Claunch said grid computing is widely used in traditional ways, such as design and other research. But for him the most interesting applications are yet to come; using grid for large scale business intelligence applications.
But Claunch may be ahead of the curve on this point. According to an audience poll, 22% of attendees were using grid and 9% had plans to use the technology in the coming year. But a whopping 69% said they had no use for the technology.
You can count Conarroe in that 22% of grid supporters. Grid computing allows researchers at his data center in Winnipeg, Man., to "get inside a DNA model and crawl around."
But Connarroe was not as bullish on Gartner's next technology, utility computing -- the model of buying grid computing capacity from an IT service provider. While it may work for some companies, Conarroe said his organization would be leery of utility computing because of security and data privacy concerns.
"Water is in your future in the data center," Claunch said. The crowd murmured, clearly unhappy to hear it.
"The density at the racks, there isn't enough air volume left," he said. "I know a lot of people are reticent to move into water. There are implications -- the plumbing, condensation, the chance for leaks. It can be a pain. But if you're about to build a data center from the ground up, put that plumbing in right away."
Claunch mentioned ISR Inc.'s SprayCool, which evaporates liquid and cools on the chip and said other companies are delivering racks with cooling plates on the back.
Gartner polled attendees on liquid cooling acceptance:
"Water cooling makes sense, but you better engineer it so you don't have floods," Conarroe said. "With the concentration of so much equipment in our racks, when we build our new data center, we have to look at [water]."
Other technology trends that made the Gartner top 10 include:
"We're entering a software crisis," Claunch said. "If your software runs one big workload, you need to rearchitect it to be parallel. There is a challenge to make our apps multithreaded."
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