The Incredible Shrinking Data Center: Capacity and Space at a Premium

The issues posed by near-exponential growth in enterprise storage needs present formidable challenges.

Enterprise data centers are struggling to stay ahead of a host of interrelated trends. Responding to rapidly changing power, cooling, and capacity needs can be vexing, and the challenges posed by the near-exponential growth of enterprise storage -- and the real-estate space required to accommodate it -- are altogether more exasperating.

Conditions probably aren't going to get any better any time soon, according to market watcher Gartner Inc., which projects that data growth trends will continue to exasperate data center administrators and capacity planners for the foreseeable future.

Nearly half (47 percent) of respondents in a recent Gartner survey listed "data growth" as one of their top three infrastructure challenges. Storage challenges outpaced runners-up system performance and scalability -- which was second at 37 percent -- and network congestion and/or connectivity (third on the list at 36 percent).

Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they plan to invest in data archiving or retirement technologies by the end of next year, chiefly in response to data growth trends.

"While all the top data center hardware infrastructure challenges impact cost to some degree, data growth is particularly associated with increased costs relative to hardware, software, associated maintenance, administration and services," according to April Adams, research director at Gartner, in a prepared release.

"Given that cost containment remains a key focus for most organizations, positioning technologies to show that they are tightly linked to cost containment, in addition to their other benefits, is a promising approach."

Elsewhere, say Adams and Gartner, shops plan to invest in a variety of related projects, such as safeguarding their data from internal or external breaches; consolidating storage; improving storage management toolsets; and experimenting with new data-reduction techniques.

Shops are likewise gearing up to improve the performance and scalability of their data center infrastructures. "As the global economy begins to revive in 2010 and organizations start to shift focus to a return to growth, IT organizations will be challenged to support the various growth initiatives," said Naveen Mishra, principal research analyst at Gartner, in a statement.

There are many projects in the pipeline, Mishra pointed out. "Many data center managers were forced to defer infrastructure upgrades and extend technology refresh cycles in 2009 and, as a result, are now dealing with an aging infrastructure or, in some cases, product obsolescence," she concluded.

"Vendors wishing to tap into this reopening market should propose infrastructure solutions that are high in efficiency and offer scalability as the demand grows, thus helping the companies to prepare for a return to growth."

About the Author

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