Hot Aisle Predictions for 2011

Julius Neudorfer
The outlook for 2011 is cloudy. It seems that every vendor has all manner of virtualization and public and private cloud software or services to offer. Even Microsoft's TV ads suggest that consumers go 'to the cloud." Nonetheless, we will still be building real data centers on Terra Firma, since it looks like we still need to put all the IT hardware somewhere. And so here are the official Hot Aisle Insight predictions for 2011:

The Hot Aisle will be hotter-100�F or more-as more enterprise data centers are adopting upper temperature recommendations of 80.6�F for air intake to the IT equipment (i.e. the cold aisle) as outlined in the ASHRAE 9.9 guidelines. This is because most servers, and especially blade servers, have a 20-25�F temperature rise.

The 'cloud' in the data center may become real, since some data centers will also allow the humidity to rise, as they begin to use outside air to improve cooling efficiency or in some cases no longer use any mechanical cooling, such as Yahoo's Chicken Coop. The Hot Aisle will be more humid (or sometimes less) as the environmental envelope is stretched to ASHRAE 9.9 and beyond (fashion outlook: safari jackets and perhaps matching rain hats will be the new uniform).

Colos will continue to absorb small- and medium-size enterprise data center operations as the cost of building, operating and upgrading their own facilities becomes more expensive, and less of a strategic advantage.

Solid-state storage will begin to make more inroads as the prices come down; however, the spinning disk is not dead yet, since the solid-state storage capacities continue to increase while prices drop to remain competitive. It will still be the primary choice in large-scale commodity deployments.

The emergency power off (EPO) button will die very slowly, even though the 2011 National Electrical Code (NEC) has eliminated it from its requirements. Local building inspectors and fire marshals will continue to require them for many years to come.  

Data center infrastructure management  (DCIM) will be big this year, as momentum builds to monitor and improve energy efficiency. More vendors will join in, but interoperability will still be a problem as BMS systems Modbus protocols and IT SNMP are still apples and oranges.

Unified communications will be more fully merged in the data center architecture and operations. The 'telecomm room' will become a fading memory, since telecomm equipment and functionality are no longer strangers in the data center and VoIP phones are now mainstream.

Internet delivery of movies from Netflix, and HD video from YouTube, Facebook and other similar social networks will incite the Internet peering bandwidth billing battleground, and may force the end of unlimited Internet fixed-price bandwidth for the consumer (land- and mobile-based). It will also drive storage vendors' equipment sales to new heights. This will also compel the need for more speeds and feeds for the network equipment manufacturers (in case you were wondering why Cisco purchased consumer product maker Flip, which offers the UltraHD video camera).


Upgrading to 40Gb Ethernet (as well as 100Gb) will mandate that more expensive copper cabling (Cat 6E and Cat 7, as well as shielded versions) be specified and promoted by the cabling industry. And since these cables are much larger in diameter than Cat 5E, if implemented, they will become a huge physical choke point for airflow since it requires far larger cable trays. The myth that fiber is more expensive than copper will continue to be perpetuated by the copper cabling manufacturers.  As a result, top-of-rack or end-of-row switching with fiber uplinks will become the preferred network architecture. Fiber vendors will need to do a better job of educating IT and data center decision makers as to the difference in size and performance of fiber versus copper cabling systems. Attention IT equipment makers: If you offer lower-cost fiber interfaces in equipment there will be more room for computing equipment and less room required for large copper cabling and patch panels. 

Densities will continue to rise and older cooling systems and airflow designs will become even more challenged as they try to keep up. Cold aisle and Hot Aisle containment and other airflow management strategies will no longer be considered extreme leading-edge methodologies. Close-coupled cooling will become more common in new designs. 

The Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star programs will continue to expand and will cover virtually all areas of the data center, as the UPS and data storage arrays are added to the growing list of equipment covered by the program. More servers, as well as bladeservers, will be part of version 2 of the program. The data center infrastructure efficiency will be subject to further scrutiny and possible local regulations as ASHRAE 90.1 becomes adopted by local build departments.

The computing loads in data centers will become more dynamic instead of nearly flat, as older IT equipment such as servers are upgraded to Energy Star-rated products-which have much lower idle power states and mandatory power management. This will result in more 'traveling hot spots' during peaks or overcooling during lulls in computing loads, especially in older data centers, which were not designed to handle these changing conditions.

Virtualized desktops will shift more equipment from the desktop to the data center, adding to the IT equipment loads. Hopefully new server energy management software will allow the equipment to power down or run at lower power idle states when not being used, but this will also increase the dynamic swing in the power curve. 

The Green Grid will have data center operators calculating their carbon footprint with the introduction of the Carbon Usage Effectiveness (CUE) metric. As a result, we may finally find 'Bigfoot.'  Moreover, water usage will also be counted, so look for undocumented midnight deliveries of truckloads of 'Perrier,' as data centers start to calculate and boast that they have the lowest Water Usage Effectiveness (WUE).

So stay tuned and have a green, carbon-free holiday season and a happy, sustainable New Year! Until then, best wishes from Julius and CTO Edge, here at Hot Aisle Insight.
 



Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Feb 10, 2011 8:02 PM Deb Deb  says:
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