Monday, December 7, 2009

The Shrinking Data Center

This is the time of year when the information technology business waits for year-end orders to come in. These orders traditionally come from data center managers who want to beef up their data centers with whatever money they have left in their budgets. This year, though, more managers are holding on to their money, and where they are spending it, it is more likely to be spent on shrinking the data center than on expanding it.

Computers cost less than they did five years ago, while energy prices are creeping upward. The cost of electricity to operate a server is now considerably higher than the cost of the server itself. A data center can cut its electric bill by installing a new server to replace an old one — but it can save even more by installing a new server to replace ten old ones. A data center can shrink, and still get its work done, with:

  • Newer, faster computers (smaller or fewer than the ones being replaced)
  • Increases in hard drive capacity
  • Blu-ray replacing DVD for archiving
  • Adjustments in workflow scheduling, moving computation-intensive tasks into off hours
  • Furniture that maximizes use of floor space
  • Virtualization, to allow multiple operating systems to run on one server
  • Replacing custom software with more efficient off-the-shelf software

Some companies are spending millions of dollars to redo their data centers right now just to make more efficient use of their real estate. The objective could be to turn over floor space to another department, or to move out of a separate building that the company had leased for the data center.