The New Dynamic Data Center

Julius Neudorfer
The floor of the New York DatacenterDynamics Conference was filled to capacity with numerous vendors. Despite weather reports warning of a heavy downpour and flooding conditions in NYC, it did not seem to dampen attendance. In fact, it reached record numbers according to Stephen Worn, DatacenterDynamics CTO and managing director.

There were over 30 presentations and 100 vendor booths, covering power and cooling equipment and Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) and, of course, cloud and virtualization vendors, all offering more efficient solutions for power, cooling infrastructure and managing the data center (real or virtual). While no one said they had too much business, it was clear that they were anticipating that 2011 was going to bring solid growth, as more data centers were scheduled to be built or upgraded. While there were no total game-changing breakthroughs revealed at any of the presentations, it was clear that the cloud was directly or indirectly on everyone's radar.

The conference title, 'Designing for Demand: Single Tier to Multi Tier to Dynamic Tier,' set the tone of the event. The dynamic data center is the new paradigm as highly variable computing loads begin to impact the relatively static power and cooling curves of the typical data center. Several of the presentations began to address this new reality and to offer some forward-thinking solutions, such as the use of 400-volt power distribution used by eBay's new data center located in South Jordan, Utah, which was presented in a case study.

The conference theme, 'Designing for Demand,' and subsequent panel discussion were introduced and moderated by Worn. The entire industry is in a state of flux as enterprise customers called into question the need to own and operate their own dedicated data center facilities, or if their requirements can be more cost effectively met by being outsourced to colocation operators or cloud providers. Beyond that, energy efficiency, greenness and sustainability were all part of many of the presentations. 

There were two simultaneous keynote presentations given. One, 'The Green Grid's New Resource Efficiency Initiatives and Introduction of New Metrics' was standing room only, which was presented by Mark Monroe, executive director of The Green Grid. He summarized the company's newly expanded global mission and scope, its newly revised PUE metric, as well as the recently released Carbon Usage Effectiveness (CUE), Water Usage Effectiveness (WUE) metrics. Moreover, the presentation covered the new Data Center Maturity Model that has been causing a buzz among all The Green Grid's membership. In addition, Monroe pointed out that The Green Grid had just released 35 new white papers the previous week at its technical conference held in Santa Clara, which are now posted on its website.

The other keynote, 'Bulls & Bears-The Future of Leading Edge Financial Exchange Solutions and Low Latency Trading,' was focused on the Wall Street audience (since this is New York you know, and in the financial world every millisecond is worth a lot of money) and was presented by Robert Waghorne, senior vice president of European markets technology for Nasdaq OMX.

The room was packed for the presentation entitled, "ASHRAE Is Expanding the Temperature and Humidity Limits-Again.' The efforts of the committee went into the upcoming third release of the ASHRAE 9.9 recommendations. This third version will expand the environmental envelope even further than the game-changing 2008 second edition (that began to move the industry away from the 'colder is better' mentality). It was jointly presented by Don Beaty, president for DLB Associates and prior ASHRAE TC 9.9 chairman; Jack Glass, senior vice president for Citigroup and ASHRAE TC 9.9 chairman; and Roger Schmidt, distinguished engineer for IBM and prior ASHRAE TC 9.9 chairman.

The Bottom Line

There are a multitude of changes afoot in the data center industry, some subtle, others somewhat more radical. The enterprise "belt and suspenders" crowd is being pushed by economic conditions to do more with less while improving energy efficiency and not compromising the uptime and availability of mission-critical applications. They are even beginning to consider moving some less critical applications to cloud providers to save costs and concentrate their resources on the most important core applications. The concept that not all applications need to be housed and supported at a tier-4-level facility is beginning to move some enterprise customers and colo operators to create and offer different levels of redundancy in separate sections of the same site.

The front runners in the efficiency and sustainability game, such as The Green Grid and Yahoo may set the efficiency bar, but the data center industry runs on inertia. So while some of the newest sites have senior management who cherish the PR bragging rights to be the 'greenest' data center, the majority of existing mainstream sites still carry the preponderance of the load, as well as energy consumption. And if the show's attendance is an indicator, they are all still looking for ways to meet the challenge. 

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