Top Three Data Center Trends for 2009

Three innovative enterprise technologies will shape the data center and provide companies better ways to achieve business goals.

By Duncan Campbell

During this time of economic uncertainty, most companies need to maximize their technology investments. In 2009, data centers will be under increased pressure to maintain high levels of efficiency and flexibility while managing costs (and in some cases actually lowering costs). Increasingly, complex business demands require businesses to modernize their data centers, which means they’ll need an initial investment that reaps a future reward.

Fortunately, transformational technologies such as virtualization, automation, and server blades gained significant acceptance in the past year, providing a foundation for the type of performance expected of CIOs in 2009. New delivery models (such as infrastructure as a service and utility computing) also gained traction in the market. Capable of improving the way companies do business, these delivery models are expected to move to the forefront of CIOs’ minds this year.

In 2009, organizations will have increased choices of computing platforms for business services. Companies will need to weigh the value of building and managing their own in-house data centers, using a traditional outsourced service provider, or tapping into cloud services. Most companies will take advantage of all three.

Navigating the Business Technology Ecosystem

There will be no shortage of cost-cutting initiatives for enterprise technology this year. There has been much hype around the “cloud” as reducing costs. The cloud is not actually a low-cost alternative delivery model for existing enterprise apps and services as much as it is a new kind of technology and delivery model that brings new value to the enterprise.

First, data center managers must think like a cloud-based service provider. They must employ many of the same technologies used to power the cloud and implement processes to establish an agile infrastructure, where resources are pooled and infrastructures are designed to be self-service rather than build-to-order. A change in mind-set and a sharp focus on the right technologies will extend the value of existing resources. Virtualization is vital, but no single technology is a panacea. Automation, from event management to provisioning, is the shortest path to decrease the number and severity of unplanned outages. That means efficiency and (in most cases) immediate savings across the board.

Second, data center executives will need to take on a more holistic service-centric orientation. Every service that technology provides, whether in-house, outsourced, or in the clouds, must be associated with a business value. In 2009, technology organizations will become more focused on the value of the services they deliver. Enterprise technology organizations must be really smart about assessing the characteristics and associated value of services from each source, and calculate that value for each intended business outcome.

Automation -- Storage, Servers, and Network Devices

As virtualization continues to enable technology organizations to bring new levels of efficiency to the data center, the line between clients, servers, networks and storage devices will continue to blur. Because virtualization allows for multiple resources to be housed within a single CPU, attempts to standardize management and create interoperability can be a challenge. Therefore, automation is gaining more importance as a key step in virtualization. By building a data center where server management is automated, the number of virtual instances becomes irrelevant -- companies can leverage the benefits of virtualization as well as execute faster provisioning of infrastructure or applications without the risk of noncompliance.

While virtualization continues to become more widely adopted, companies find themselves in the position of having to manage both physical and virtual resources, many times relying on different tools for each. Companies need to establish standard management processes and standardize on tools that let them manage physical and virtual resources in the same way. Given the range of devices being managed, real-time visibility is essential to managing the impact of change and ensuring standard compliance. Like any other technology element, virtual machines must be managed as part of the business service. This is critical to avoiding potential performance problems, as well as security and service delivery issues. Through a seamless automation platform, companies are able to leverage the benefits of virtualization as well as execute faster provisioning of infrastructure or applications.

Blade Everything

Blade server technology plays an important role in the data center, from running everyday workplace applications to supporting mission-critical computing as well as new delivery models (such as infrastructure as a service and utility computing). Blade adoption continues to increase as customers seek the cost, change, energy, and time benefits of this hardware.

Blade offerings will continue to mature in 2009. Server, storage, and networking blades will continue to improve their energy efficiency and reduce data center footprints. Vendors are also now developing specialty blades, finely tuned to run a specific application.

For example, a virtual deployment requires servers with increased memory, data storage, and network connections to enjoy the benefits of virtualization. Similarly, cloud computing requires an ultra-dense server that can process massive amounts of data quickly and efficiently. Although standard blades can run these applications adequately, specialty blades are equipped to best handle the workload with modified capabilities that optimize server functionality for the given application.

Looking Ahead

The foundation has been laid to achieve a truly efficient data center. As we progress into 2009, we will continue to see how these innovative enterprise technologies will shape the data center and provide companies better ways to achieve business goals.

Companies that will succeed despite economic challenges will be those that leverage these key next-generation data center technologies that increase agility, reduce cost, mitigate risk and drive growth.

Duncan Campbell is vice president of worldwide marketing for adaptive infrastructure, HP. You can reach the author at