The Cloud, Consolidation and a New Data Center?

Arthur Cole

The two major trends hitting the data center industry these days are cloud computing and consolidation. The common thread between them is the desire to handle increasing data loads with less physical infrastructure.

If that is the case, then why is there a surge of new data center construction out there?

According to Gartner, nearly half of enterprises are planning to build one or more data centers in the next two years, with the other half eyeing expansions to existing facilities. It's one of the main reasons for a number of new programs at HP and other vendors to guide data center projects from the ground up.

Clearly, one of the major drivers of this construction boom is the cloud itself. Providers from Verizon on down are scrambling to provision the resources that will be required to handle the expected onslaught of cloud-based data and applications. The cloud, after all, is great at allowing enterprises to tap into newly available resources, but they still have to reside somewhere in the physical world.

It's also true that the definition of "data center" has changed over the past decade. No longer are we strictly talking about dedicated bricks-and-mortar buildings teaming with blinking, buzzing boxes. Modularity is in these days, which means many of the new and/or expanded facilities are likely to consist of containerized racks that can deliver performance on a minimal budget.

While the thought of simply plugging in an entire data center to gain instant scalability is certainly appealing, reality dictates a much more complicated process. And according to Data Center Journal's Jeffrey Clark, one of the most crucial aspects to new data center construction is also one of the most overlooked: an assessment of local and regional power supplies. Contrary to some notions, not all power grids are the same. Particularly in rural areas that tend to offer the lowest capital and manpower costs, electricity supplies may not have the ability to scale to the level required by modern enterprises. While it is unlikely that power would suddenly disappear, an overtaxed grid would certainly generate uncomfortably high energy bills.

New technologies are almost single-mindedly focused on reducing the data center footprint. But the fact is that rising data loads will force the expansion of physical resources at some point. The good news is that today's rollouts can be accomplished at a fraction of the cost of traditional data center construction.

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