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The top data center 2010 trends

A shaky economy will drive data center budgets, staffing and technology choices in 2010. Data center managers need to forecast as well as they can, but be flexible on long-term plans given economic volatility.

Most companies are riding the global economy rollercoaster, and that means data center managers and their plans and budgets need to be flexible in 2010. At the 2009 Gartner Data Center conference in early December, analysts recommended IT managers develop multiple budgets to be better prepared for various macroeconomic scenarios.

Train, cross-train flexible staffers
Since many organizations will be forced to deliver IT services with less manpower in the foreseeable future, flexible staff will be a valuable resource. Gartner recommended that IT managers cross-train data center admins, regularly introducing new job responsibilities and implementing formal mentoring programs.

Keep a close eye on colocation costs
Many companies have run out of data center space. And rather than building new facilities, they are turning to colocation providers. In a tight capital market, laying out tens of millions of dollars for a new data center is even less appealing than it used to be. Gartner estimates the cost to build 10,000 square feet of new data center space ranges from $10 million to $35 million, based on facility redundancy levels.

Gartner analyst Ted Chamberlin said colocation prices have peaked. Chamberlin warned companies signing colocation agreements to look short term, and devise 12-to-24-month contracts, as he predicted the colo demand bubble will burst within 36 months and prices will decline.

But Dan Golding, the vice president at Tier1 Research, said the Gartner folks are wrong prices won't decline anytime soon. The demand for colocation space has outpaced supply. Tier1 Research estimates that in 2009 there was a 6% growth in supply and a 14% growth in demand. Golding said that gap won't start to close until 2013. "There is no credit for building now, and the 12-to-24 month construction time frame is pretty much set in stone," Golding said. "Assuming the industry gets money in 2011, we'll see new capacity in 2013. Supply and demand are inexorable. Prices will rise."

Time for enterprises to dip a toe into the cloud
With sky-high real estate costs and the potential for eye-popping data center colocation prices, now is as good a time as any for enterprises to move nonessential apps to the cloud. Elastic, on-demand IT capacity never looked so good.

Which are the best companies to look to in 2010 for enterprise cloud computing? Gartner anointed AT&T, Rackspace Inc., Terremark Worldwide Inc. and Savvis Inc. as the winners in its Magic Quadrant of cloud providers.

SaaS model gains favor in IT management tools
Last year a few companies ditched clunky IT management frameworks for IT management Software as a Service (SaaS). You can expect that trend to continue in 2010, and even the Big Four have bet on the SaaS model.

Looking at to 2010, Redmonk analyst Michael Cot said more systems management offerings will go to the cloud. He cited IBM's TivoliLive and BMC Software Inc.'s partnership with to offer its service desk Software as a Service.

"For the most part, I think IT staff is still leery of complete SaaS for their IT management stack. But when it comes to monitoring and especially service desks, there's more acceptance," Cot said. "In 2010, I'd recommend considering SaaS for at least a service desk, if not lower-level monitoring, if only for IT staff to start getting a sense of how cloud computing will start to affect their everyday lives."

More meaningful reporting on IT energy use,
Michael Manos, the former chief of Microsoft's data center strategy and current senior vice president at Digital Realty Trust, has predicted for some time now that if the U.S. ever gets serious about capping carbon emissions, data center managers will face a lot of extra work in the form of monitoring and reporting energy use.

With the Waxman-Markey climate and energy bil (the American Clean Energy and Security Act, ACES, H.R. 2454), and President Barack Obama in Copenhagen this month hashing out the U.S. carbon reduction strategy, it looks like that day is close at hand.

Manos said that data center operations teams can expect higher power prices, and increased reporting responsibilities on power usage. Manos said IT managers need to start planning now for carbon reporting: branch circuit monitoring, power strip monitoring for IT loads.

An IT manager at a skin-care company at the Gartner conference said carbon reporting is on his CIO's agenda. "Walking down the aisles, taking the readings from PDUs and scribbling them on tablets isn't going to work," he said.

He noted that his company may also pursue the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED green building certification for its next data center. "We're a direct sales company, a bad rumor can whack sales," he said. "We're careful about our image eco-friendly is not optional."

Lucky for him, the USGBC might develop a data center-specific Leadership in Energy and Design (or LEED) certification in the next year or two. The organization is currently assigning a working group to develop a standard.

Data center design trends: Raised floors phase out
Data center columnist Chuck Goolsbee pronounced raised-floor data center design dead two and a half years ago. But hot-airle/cold-aisle containment put a stake through its heart. Gartner analyst David Cappuccio said raised floors are an artifact of the past. "Hot air rises, cold air falls. You don't need a raised floor with self-contained racks," Cappuccio noted. He pointed out that some data center designers now use slab flooring with linoleum tiles that have dots painted on them. The appearance of a raised floor makes worried CIOs more comfortable.

Cappuccio also said the practice of building data centers as big as is affordable and then growing into the space also defunct. Companies can't plop bleeding-edge technology onto a 13-year-old raised floor. "Don't build out 10,000 feet today. Build a shell to support 10,000 feet, but carve the facility into zones and do smaller, denser buildouts. Reduce capital costs."

Sun customers continue free-fall
The fate of Sun customers lies in the hands of Larry Ellison and a handful of European bureaucrats -- a frightening thought. The bottom line is that IT managers have no idea at this point where Oracle will take the Sun inventory. Gartner's George Weiss offers the following advice:

  • Don't place a strategic commitment on Sparc until a long-term contract is signed between Fujitsu and Oracle.
  • Leverage Sun's less than 3% market share of the x86 market to negotiate discounted hardware deals, as they're pretty great machines.
  • Lock in five years on hardware/software maintenance contracts, as Oracle will likely revise/raise them.

Looking to 2010, data center managers are facing more uncertainty than at any time in the past decade. As trusted vendors collapse, application delivery and data center design models evolve, data center pros need to try to forecast change to the best of their ability. But planning further than 12-months out will be a challenge.

What did you think of this feature? Write to's Matt Stansberry about your data center concerns at

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