Gartner Data Center Conference Yields Few Surprises

Gartner’s 2012 Data Center Conference in Las Vegas is noted for  not yielding any major surprise.  While having an uncanny number of attendees (*the stats are not available, however it is clear they are having a very good conference), most of the sessions appear to be simply reaffirming what everybody really knows already, serving to reinforce the reality data center consolidation, cloud computing, big data, and the move to an interoperable framework will be part of everybody’s life within a few years.

Childs at Gartner ConferenceGartner analyst Ray Paquet started the morning by drawing a line at the real value of server hardware in cloud computing.  Paquet stressed that cloud adopters should avoid integrated hardware solutions based on blade servers, which carry a high margin, and focus their CAPEX on cheaper “skinless” servers.  Paquet emphasized that integrated solutions are a “waste of money.”

Cameron Haight, another Gartner analyst, fired a volley at the process and framework world, with a comparison of the value DevOps brings versus ITIL.  Describing ITIL as a cumbersome burden to organizational agility, DevOps is a culture-changer that allows small groups to quickly respond to challenges.  Haight emphasized the frequently stressful relationship between development organizations and operations organizations, where operations demands stability and quality, and development needs freedom to move projects forward, sometimes without the comfort of baking code to the standards preferred by operations – and required by frameworks such as ITIL.

Haight’s most direct slide described De Ops as being “ITIL minus CRAP.”  Of course most of his supporting slides for moving to DevOps looked eerily like an ITIL process….

Other sessions attended (by the author) included “Shaping Private Clouds,” a WIPRO product demonstration, and a data center introduction by Raging Wire.  All valuable introductions for those who are considering making a major change in their internal IT deployments, but nothing cutting edge or radical.

The Raging Wire data center discussion did raise some questions on the overall vulnerability of large box data centers.  While it is certainly possible to build a data center up to any standard needed to fulfill a specific need, the large data center clusters in locations such as Northern Virginia are beginning to appear very vulnerable to either natural, human, or equipment failure disruptions.  In addition to fulfilling data center tier classification models as presented by the Uptime Institute, it is clear we are producing critical national infrastructure which if disrupted could cause significant damage to the US economy or even social order.

Eventually, much like the communications infrastructure in the US, data centers will need to come under the observation or review of a national agency such as Homeland Security.  While nobody wants a government officer in the data center, protection of national infrastructure is a consideration we probably will not be able to avoid for long.

Raging Wire also noted that some colocation customers, particularly social media companies, are hitting up to 8kW per cabinet.  Also scary if true, and in extended deployments.  This could result in serious operational problems if cooling systems were disrupted, as the heat generated in those cabinets will quickly become extreme.  Would also be interesting if companies like Raging Wire and other colocation companies considered developing a real time CFD monitor for their data center floors allowing better monitoring and predictability than simple zone monitoring solutions.

The best presentation of the day came at the end, “Big Data is Coming to Your Data Center.”  Gartner’s Sheila Childs brought color and enthusiasm to a topic many consider, well, boring.  Childs was able to bring the value, power, and future of big data into a human consumable format that kept the audience in their seats until the end of session at 6 p.m. in the late afternoon.

Childs hit on concepts such as “dark data” within organizations, the value of big data in decision support systems (DSS), and the need for developing and recruiting skilled staff who can actually write or build the systems needed to fully exploit the value of big data.  We cannot argue that point, and can only hope our education system is able to focus on producing graduates with the basic skills needed to fulfill that requirement.

About johnsavageau
Another telecom junkie who has been bouncing around the international communications community for most of the past 35 years.

3 Responses to Gartner Data Center Conference Yields Few Surprises

  1. Mark M. says:

    As always, your assessment is spot on.

  2. First of all, very comprehensive coverage of the show! I wanted to comment on couple quick observations. You are spot on about building critical national infrastructure and its impact if disrupted. RagingWire’s VP of IT wrote a nice blog article in this regard explaining “When N+1 infrastructure just isn’t good enough” (http://www.ragingwire.com/blog/why-n%2B1-architecture-is-not-good-enough-for-critical-data-center-infrastructure). It also lists several data center disruptions in the past one year. If you look at that list, to your point, it’s clear that the vulnerability is NOT so much because of the location but is due to the data center infrastructure. RagingWire on the other hand, has an unprecedented 100% uptime since 2006 – because of it’s patented “2N+2 architecture” – a cut about the standard Tier 4 data centers.

    About the power density – this is exactly why many data centers fail and disrupt the service. While other data center colocation providers typically exclude maintenance windows from their service level commitments, RagingWire offers a 100% uptime SLA – even during maintenance windows. The combination of innovation, infrastructure, and best-practices allows RagingWire to deliver this unique 100% service level agreement (SLA).

    • johnsavageau says:

      Thanks for the comment. Yes, Raging Wire is a cut above the rest, offering a level of innovation which other data centers lack. In the late 90s and early 2000s outsourcing into a public colocation facility or data center was a good thing for young companies, such as hosting or other Internet startups with a higher threshold for outages. Companies such as Akamai helped mitigate some of the risk of outage with their global distributed CDN architecture, however that did little for transaction-based enterprises or governments.

      Thus the critical national infrastructure. In a world of data center consolidation, outsourcing, cloud models, and SaaS, outages at the scale of a 400k/sqft data center can have an enormous impact on not only that business, but also larger and larger chunks of the economy.

      Data center operators focusing on mixed-use office buildings, or re-purposing old central offices need to ensure their customers are protected, and customers need to understand that all data centers represent a single point of failure at some level (i.e., floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunami, storm surges, etc). The customer also carries the burden of ensuring their internal or outsourcing plan acknowledges that reality.

      Raging Wire is certainly a leader in the area, as well as other companies at the level of wholesale space such as Digital Realty, Dupont, and others. The average colo company may not provide that level of confidence, as with very few exceptions a repurposed mixed-use office or old building simply cannot provide the basic infrastructure needed to meet the expectation of what we’ll continue to call “national infrastructure.”

      Data center clusters, while making all the sense in the world when considering cost of power, availability of carriers, network service providers, carrier hotels, and IXPs do present a national infrastructure risk – unless the customers and service providers have clear conti9nuity of operations planning and alternate processing facilities identified and available.

      Long conversation – again, your company is a cut above the rest – best of luck.

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