Friday, July 28, 2006

Waiting for the next-gen data center

What's the average life expectancy for a data center -- 15 to 20 years? With that in mind, what's the average life expectancy for the IT equipment inside that facility -- four years? Hardware vendors are typically committed to providing server components for five years, but the equipment is worthless for resale after three.

That leaves data center managers planning for hardware requirements that don't even exist yet. A high density rack today might be running over 10kw per cabinet, and likely requires more cooling than a traditional raised floor system can provide. That means you’re probably putting band-aids on the problem, like liquid cooled doors and overhanging apparatuses.

These are likely keeping your servers cooler, but aren't doing anything for your peace of mind or energy bill. And if conventional wisdom on power and cooling trends in the data center are correct, you're going to be dealing with this across the entire facility and not just in a few hot spots.

So what to do? Build a new data center every five years? Maybe. Or you could buy up half the Columbia River valley and build for technologies as needed.

A workable plan I've heard at conferences is to build out a data center modularly, breaking down the traditional 10-20 year planning into five year chunks. Other companies are building out capacity for requirements they don’t even have yet.

Every IT vendor, the biggest companies in the world and the U.S. government seem to be working on the issue -- which is this: traditional data centers will not be able to physically support the increasing demand of enterprise computing. So how long before someone comes up with a solution -- and will it come from better engineering on the facility level or the equipment?


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