The crucial role of the data centre

Thursday, 01 April, 2010

The topic of sustainability or green IT remains a key focus for everyone in the industry this year. On the bright side, doing business is more accessible than ever before. Advances in technology have reduced transaction costs, created broader access to global markets and advanced technologies, and levelled the playing field among small businesses, large corporations, emerging economies and industrialised nations. IBM’s Mark Latchford * tracks the positive changes in sustainable IT.

Just a decade ago, all of this would have seemed unimaginable. In contrast to this, our increasing reliance on technology and computing power means enterprises are facing an unprecedented crisis in the data centre, where outdated tools and ill-prepared platforms are attempting to manage implementations and workloads they simply were not designed for. Not only this, but the increase in power consumption means enterprises’ energy costs are spiralling out of control, and the business world’s carbon footprint is increasingly coming under the microscope. A new solution is needed, and that solution is the new enterprise data centre model.

The need for these new data centres is evident with IDC reporting that between 1996 and 2010, the number of installed servers is expected to grow from five million units to some 43 million units and storage capacity is now doubling in capacity every year-and-a-half. The problem therein is that, as more hardware is needed, along with computer power and the need for power and cooling, the systems currently in place at most data centres cannot handle the influx of activity.

Data centres were also not designed to be adaptable enough to take advantage of the changing competitive IT landscape. The implication is that most current data centres are unable to host the next generation of high-density equipment. Unlike rising management costs and increased administration, power limits are experienced as a wall IT managers run into.

Companies are forced to make a decision - they either have to expand their existing data centre, which can cost millions of dollars, or they have to innovate inside the current envelope. And the problem is already here: Gartner estimates that up to 50% of data centres may already be obsolete in terms of power, cooling and space capacity. This means that more than 70% of the world’s organisations will have to modify their data centre facilities significantly by 2013 in order to cope with the new demands.

The emerging environment - the new enterprise data centre - will be more efficient, virtualised and more interconnected with partners and the public internet infrastructure. The lock that exists between the IT user and the IT resource will be broken.

Fortunately, many companies have begun to address some of these challenges head on. Thirty to 50% of large enterprises have consolidated or are in the process thereof and most are doing some level of virtualisation, one of the key ingredients to the new enterprise data centre. Those that have really advanced these efforts are already seeing significant returns or cost savings.

Every business operation in the 21st century understands that IT management is significantly different than it was at the beginning of the decade. While competitiveness, differentiation and survival are all key issues for businesses, sustainability and cutting energy costs are just two green issues now needing to be dealt with. It is clear that a more sustainable approach is required for IT service delivery. This transformation offers new economics, but can also unlock tremendous value by enabling business flexibility, speed and differentiation.

* Mark Latchford is the vice-president of the IBM Systems and Technology Group for Australia and New Zealand and is responsible for managing the company’s server and storage businesses.

IBM’s Systems and Technology Group works with the company’s industry and sector-focused units, Business Partners, IBM Global Services and IBM Business Consulting Services, to help clients build IT infrastructures for the on-demand era.

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