Another reason most IT data centers are on the way out

The efficiency of utility computing is about to get even better. A conversation with David Scott, CEO of 3PAR
Written by Tom Foremski, Contributor

A conversation about fine-grained virtualization in enterprise data storage might not sound very appealing. However, David Scott, CEO of 3PAR, managed to make it a very interesting topic of conversation and one that I'm sure a lot of CIOs will soon be having internally.

We know that server utilization can be grossly inefficient, A spinning disk one third full of data uses the same amount of power as one that is 80 percent full.utilizing just 30 per cent of capacity in many installations, which is why a company such as VMware with its server virtualization technology, thrives. Similarly, the utilization of data storage systems is at a similar level of inefficiency, and that's the problem that 3PAR addresses.

You might ask why such data storage inefficiencies are allowed to flourish, especially when VMware is an EMC company--a leader in data storage systems. I asked, and Mr Scott said it was all to do with money.

"EMC sells lots of data storage systems and so it is not in its interests to sell fewer systems. What happens if a $20bn data storage market becomes a $10bn market?" Fair point, and clearly, EMC doesn't subscribe to the Andy Grove notion of cannibalizing your own markets before others eat your lunch :-)

3PAR, which is backed by Oracle, Veritas (now Symantec), and Sun Microsystems, has raised $132m since its founding in May 1999. It was early in recognizing that utility computing, an emerging buzz word in those days, would become an important IT architecture.

A different approach to data storage

3PAR's founders, all from the data storage industry, knew that current data storage systems were inadequate for utility computing.

3PAR is now selling its solution, which Mr Scott says can be deployed in just a few hours and can increase data storage utilization to 80 per cent and more--depending on how it is used.

"Companies can buy more storage as they need it, they don't need to buy a terabyte of storage now, just because an application says it needs it," Mr Scott said.

That saves on data center floor space and energy costs too: a spinning disk one third full of data uses the same amount of power as one that is 80 per cent full. And requires the same amount of cooling too.

It has some big customers, such as MySpace.com, which has been adding as many as a million users in a week.

But utility computing is not for everyone. Many organizations don't have the scale, or the ability to transform their data centers into utility computing centers. And that's fine, because many organizations don't need to do that--they can buy utility computing from many vendors.

Technologies such as 3PAR's are going to raise the bar for corporate data centers because they won't be able to compete against the economics of external vendors of utility computing services.

Decommissioning IT data centers should become a booming business in the next few years.

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