Data Centers Poised for Rapid Expansion, Environment Issues

If you think your data center power and cooling issues are bad now, just wait.

If you think your data center power and cooling issues are bad now, just wait.

Market-watcher Gartner Inc. projects a sharp uptick in server sales through 2012. One upshot of this, says Rakesh Kumar, a research vice president with Gartner, is that data center power, cooling, and space issues could soon reach "critical mass.''

"While server sales [are] expected to rise [over] the next two years, many IT administrators are already grappling with [the] data center power, cooling and space issues of [their] current [environments]," said Kumar, in a statement. "Virtualization and consolidation projects will help offset some of these issues, but with the snowball effect that these issues tend to create within an organization, users need to act quickly."

The market watcher serves up several suggestions, starting with the importance of getting a firm grip on the problem. "Users need to get accurate capacity-related data to quantify the impact of infrastructure expansion on the amount of data center power, cooling and available space," the Gartner statement points out.

In this respect, Gartner counsels, go straight to the source: work with facilities teams to determine how much data center capacity you have left, how much you're currently using, what your projected rate of expansion is -- and when you expect to max out.

In the same way, the researcher says, shops likewise need to determine what they have in their long-term project pipelines. Extrapolating on the basis of existing conditions or trends without also taking into account the impact of still-gestating application or infrastructure projects is to guarantee an unhappy outcome, Gartner notes.

Things could be worse. Thanks to ongoing consolidation and virtualization efforts, shops have extra headroom, the researcher says.

"Many of the consolidation and virtualization projects that started two years ago will continue to yield benefits that will offset the impact of new hardware deployments," the Gartner release explains. "[I]n all cases, accurate modeling and quantification are key to addressing the problem in a controlled manner."

For that reason, shops should in some cases consider accelerating consolidation or virtualization projects, Gartner counsels. "Many of these projects were started two years ago as the IT recession started. These are multiyear activities, with benefits occurring over the life of the projects. However, the benefits often increase toward the end of the project, so users should accelerate the speed of adoption and change."

Shops need to quantify the impact of their ongoing consolidation and virtualization efforts, too. Guessing just isn't good enough.

For example, Gartner suggests that IT organizations work closely with infrastructure and operations (I&O) staff to determine how much capacity -- if any -- has been restored by consolidation or virtualization activity. In many cases, IT organizations can exploit reclaimed capacity (instead of purchasing new servers) to meet new or projected capacity needs, Gartner stresses.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.