Cloud changing face of data centers

Cloud computing will be one of the major forces shaping next-generation data centers, which look set to become smaller and more agile to meet evolving enterprise needs, say market watchers.

Cloud computing is one of the forces shaping data centers over the next five years, note market observers who also share their vision of next-generation data centers.

In a statement released last month, Gartner highlighted cloud computing as one of the four factors that will change datacenter space requirements in the next five years. "Datacenter managers are beginning to consider the possibility of shifting nonessential workloads to a cloud provider, freeing up much-needed floor space, power and cooling, which can then be focused on more-critical production workloads, and extending the useful life of the data center," said the research firm.

With the shift to offloading nonessential services to a cloud provider, the corporate datacenter landscape will change, according to Gartner. In fact, the research firm predicted that by 2018, datacenter space requirements will shrink to only 40 percent of what is required today as data centers focus on core business services. While these core business services will demand more IT resources, Garter noted that the shrinking size of server, storage and networking equipment will also contribute to the reduction in datacenter space.

Aside from turning to cloud services as a strategic decision, cloud computing is also helping to deliver energy efficiency to data centers, said Alex Tay, datacenter services executive at IBM Asia-Pacific. This, he explained in an e-mail interview, is a result of an increase in server utilization rates brought about by virtualization and consolidation of servers.

Flexibility, immediacy hallmark of next-gen data centers
According to the Gartner report, besides cloud computing, datacenter managers also need to focus three aspects when designing their future leading edge facilities. They are smarter datacenter designs, green IT pressures as well as solving density issues.

David Cappuccio, managing vice president and chief of research for infrastructure at Gartner, noted in the statement that data centers with traditional methods of design will "no longer work without understanding the outside forces that will have an impact on datacenter costs, size and longevity".

ZDNet Asia spoke to two data center players to find out what the blueprint of their next-generation data centers looks like.

For Big Blue, the next-generation data center has three primary features, said Tay. It is capable of supporting high-density computing, has the ability to optimize capital and operating cost, and boasts a flexible design that allows integration of newer technologies.

In addition, traditional datacenter considerations such as security, location and operations remain, he noted.

Over at Hewlett-Packard, the vision of the next-generation data center is "Instant-On", said Wolfgang Wittmer, senior vice president and general manager of enterprise servers, storage and networking at HP Asia-Pacific and Japan. In his e-mail, he explained that an Instant-On enterprise is one which serves customers, employees, partners and citizens with whatever they want and need instantly at any point in time and through any channel.

While Wittmer acknowledged that cloud delivery is becoming an important paradigm, he noted that multisourcing is the optimal model for businesses.

"Enterprises need to be able to choose from the full spectrum of delivery options," he said, noting that the company's hybrid delivery approach helps clients select the best method of service delivery and then integrate it into their environment.