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An old data center infrastructure looks new in a coat of green

Thinking about heading out to Gartner Inc.’s 29th annual Data Center Conference in Las Vegas next week, I’m reminded of how much data center infrastructure has changed since the mid-1980s, when Comdex expanded across the desert as the PC took hold in corporations. No doubt the conversations then were focused on raised floors and midrange systems, as businesses built out their client/server networks.

Fast-forward to 2010, and the hot topics at next week’s conference will concern consolidation rather than expansion, as the data center’s infrastructure is transformed using virtualization, automation and green technologies to achieve something that never goes out of style: saving money.

Going green is one way to gain efficiencies in the budget and satisfy a universal need for better stewardship of the world’s data centers. Businesses can’t afford to plug in servers that are running at 12% optimization, nor can they ignore the growing evidence from the scientists gathered in Cancun this week that climate change is real. Green technologies, such as air economizers, promise to deliver results for both the bottom line and the Earth, and that’s why IT executives are getting serious about the topic. On this week, we explored the need for green data centers. Stay tuned next week for ways to get green.

The need for cost savings is driving another trend: partial outsourcing of the data center infrastructure, according to John Phelps, a research vice president at Gartner and co-chair of this year’s conference. “People who are not running their data center efficiently would save money with outsourcing,” he said. “We tell our customers, ‘take a look at anything where you are not adding business value, and look to outsource that.'” The model can be anything from colocation to “turning over everything,” he said, adding, “the word outsourcing is a mixed value.”

Another growing trend is for IT departments to order all the infrastructure needed for a data center, which then is packaged up and installed in the company’s building or at a co-lo site. These “modular” data centers enable companies to add modules in increments, instead of spending multiple years’ worth of capital expenditure up front. These aren’t your father’s (or my father’s) old shipping containers filled with servers and cables; they’re nifty green pods, complete with racks and hot and cold aisles, that defy convention.

What’s new in your data center? Let me know at [email protected].

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