Data center planning needs new paradigm

Businesses need to factor in scalability, flexibility and focus more on keeping operational costs low to equip themselves for cloud environments, says IBM exec.
Written by Vivian Yeo, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Catering for future capacity in data center deployment plans is an "old paradigm" that is not cost-efficient and wastes energy, according to an IBM executive.

Organizations that focus on traditional data center requirements--high availability, capacity and optimizing capital costs--are "not in touch" with today's needs, Steven Sams, IBM's vice president for global site and facilities services, said Tuesday in a media briefing on the sidelines of Data Centre Management Asia 2009.

To better equip themselves for current and future business and IT needs such as cloud computing, organizations need to also look at maximizing scalability and flexibility, Sams said. They also need to be able to keep capital and operational costs to a minimum, he added.

Operational cost was "a determining factor" in the Nanyang Technological University's (NTU) decision to appoint IBM as its High Performance Computing Center (HPCC) partner and vendor. Melvin Soh, system manager at NTU's HPCC, said preliminary tests indicated Big Blue's Rear Door Heat Exchanger technology that taps liquid cooling capabilities, was around 33 percent more energy-efficient than precision or in-line cooling.

The NTU HPCC, which began operations this month, focuses on climatic studies aimed at solving biological problems and rendering movies. It houses the fastest supercomputer in Southeast Asia, ranked No. 267 in the June edition of the Top500 list. The high-performance computing setup has also been ranked the 24th most energy-efficient system on the Green500 list.

Facilitating move to cloud
IBM's Sams noted that as businesses move toward cloud computing, they need to look for technology that would protect their investments.

The drive toward cloud computing, he explained, was really about achieving a "much lower cost environment by driving utilization of assets". To be able to realize this, organizations need to consider cloud computing not only from an application or software perspective, but also from the need to obtain data center efficiency.

He noted the interest and potential in cloud computing. "I haven't had a customer that I've talked to, that is not interested in cloud," Sams said, adding that based on analysis with a variety of companies, IBM found that 60 percent of workloads can be put into the cloud.

However, the IBMer noted that most companies today are in an experimental stage in terms of cloud deployment where, for instance, they would dedicate "a partial rack" for trial purposes.

IBM's data center customers have the capability to support cloud-enabled IT workloads, though "they weren't thinking about cloud" when they first bought these systems, he said. Since June 2007, over 250 customers worldwide have purchased one of the vendor's four modular data center offerings.

Responding to Oracle CEO Larry Ellison's recent comments about IBM products fairing worse than Oracle-Sun Microsystems' offerings, Sams said Big Blue has been "doing very well" in terms of its financial performance. Its stock price was also "at an all-time high", he noted.

"That's not because we're doing a poor job… We're probably offering the best value in the market," he said.

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