The Data Center as Utility

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The concept of utility computing may have captured the attention of the front office, which has warmed to the idea of turning IT from a cost to a profit center, but actually implementing it has turned out to be more complicated than previously thought.


And even if you get a workable system up and running, it could still be a challenge to get users accustomed to the idea of common memory, processing and storage rather than the dedicated resources that have been the norm for decades.


Virtualization certainly helps the process along, but one of the key hardware components going forward likely will be blade servers, according to this write-up in Information Week. Besides the usual advantages that blades bring in terms of space, power consumption and cooling, their modular designs (no cables) make them ideal for hot-swapping, and chassis-level control makes them easier to manage. Just be careful not to go too dense with them, or risk losing some of these gains.


Once you start evaluating the various approaches to utility computing, you realize there are myriad options to consider. Top-tier vendors such as HP and IBM tout their capacity-management solutions, said to be able to deliver resources wherever and whenever they are needed. Application virtualization and grid-computing solutions also abound from companies such as Appistry and DataSynapse. And then there are hosted solutions, such as Layered Technology and ServePath.


New partnerships also are forming around the utility computing model. One aspect of Cisco's recent integration of the VMware Virtual Infrastructure into the VFrame Data Center is it lets you add the ESX server into a utility-style configuration along with Windows and Linux partitions. Just say the word, and IT can boot a pre-configured environment from either the SAN or a shared LUN environment.


Basically, utility computing is the IT version of a flu shot. A little pain now brings a lot of relief later, in the form of lower costs and simpler management. Of course, we'd certainly be open to any suggestions about how to lessen the pain a bit more.