One of the biggest names in data centre optimisation is that of Dell, and according to Paul Kenny, head of global infrastructure with Dell Ireland, organisations in this sector are currently more focused on cost than ever, and in particular are seeking "the savings that technology and automation can deliver".
He continued, "We are advising customers to simplify their infrastructure and achieve better consolidation of physical assets, implement better management systems, automate more tasks and leverage technology advances to optimise their IT operations."
Maurice Mortell, CEO of Data Electronics added to this clamour for end users to examine how they can benefit from employing the usage of a data centre. "There's a general rule of thumb in the market at the moment that for every 10 kilowatts of power that's used out in marketplace, as regards customers using their own power in their own office, you only use one kilowatt in the data centre. It's much more efficient than the client doing it themselves."
Beyond tips on management structures and automation, several experts to whom ComputerScope spoke emphasised how virtualisation of both server and storage environments is gaining popularity. Noted Kenny, "We are seeing more customers who are now moving from the evaluation phase of virtualisation technologies to implementing them. While virtualisation facilitates better utilisation of assets from a management and performance perspective, it also increases the capability to achieve more efficient power and cooling in the data centre environment."
However, not all subscribe to this ethos with many data centre commentators shifting virtualisation into the realms of ‘future development' rather than the sure thing to spend your money on.
"If I get another enquiry about virtualisation - it's amazing how often it comes up" said Aidan Donnelly, CEO of Servecentric who provide high-quality, scalable solutions from single cabinet collocation services to full-scale provision of managed services. "There seems to be a great misunderstanding of what it is and how it works and that the real saving has to come in how you structure and downsize your server base."
Gavin Tobin MD of Ethos Technology, a trade only distributor, said that at a recent VMware conference the topic of just how much money virtualisation can save at the moment came up. "It's a bit of a running joke," he said, ", I was talking to some people and said instead of buying 16 €1,000 servers there'll be one server (bought) for €16,000. The main savings with regards to virtualisation will be power consumption and what you're paying for that space. You'll most likely still spend the same with regards to hardware whether it's 16 vender machines or one big machine running 16 virtual machines. Where you'll save is on how much you're paying for your rack space and how much you're paying for your power."
Bob Fine, director of product marketing with Compellent claimed that virtualisation is "almost synonymous with cost saving". He added, "Even with what's been going on with the worldwide economy over the last three to four months, this will facilitate the adoption of anything that will reduce costs. If virtualisation is the way to reduce costs further, then it will become the poster child for data centre savings. The ROI is easily explainable as well to people who may have been trudging around with different management systems, or those who've had to deal with the complications of RAID groups. They see it right away."
In terms of storage, Kenny commented that adopting a tiered storage architecture model can help customers achieve savings. Having less frequently used data archived on cheaper and more energy efficient disks and energy efficient RAID sets can "significantly reduce power consumption", helping meet green requirements, he added.
General manager of Hosting365, Ed Byrne, agreed with this sentiment saying that on a technology level, the main driver over the past few years has been "the amount of processing power and storage you can fit in as little a space as possible".
"You see this with the growth in blade server technology and physically smaller hard drives that provide more storage," continued Byrne. "High density servers and storage require higher power and cooling and so there have been developments here too to provide either more power and cooling in a smaller space, or manage power more dynamically to get more processing done while generating less heat. Aside from technology, there is a push towards being more environmentally friendly."
"Whether this is for fear of regulation and carbon taxes, or a real want to make things better I don't know - probably a mix of both - but certainly equipment vendors and data centre providers are trying to do everything to maximise the efficiency of their power, cooling, and infrastructure. And there's big inroads being made here with better power management features, storage technologies like de-duplication, and virtualisation of infrastructure," added Byrne.
Darren Thomson, senior technical director with the EMEA arm of Symantec Security Response, plumped for data de-duplication technologies; IT process development and automation software as areas which can help end users to save money both on the hardware capital expenses and human resources.
"This makes them very important in today's financial climate," added Symantec. "In addition, data loss prevention technology has become extremely important over the past two years because of the value organisations put on their confidential and sensitive information. We have seen a shift within organisations being purely concerned with ‘keeping the bad things out' to them becoming much more concerning about ‘keeping the good things in'."
Data replication technology, to allow the mirroring of data across multiple data centres, is very popular at the moment added Thomson. "We are still seeing a lot of demand with these technologies. Any management systems that help organisations to control the current explosion in storage costs, gain efficient access to the corporate information and secure their data are popular. De-duplication systems, comprehensive data protection, archiving solutions and data loss prevention systems are also very popular at the moment."
Elsewhere CPU, memory and disk utilisation along with increased reporting and control of network utilisation and network service by protocol are listed by Cable & Wireless product manager, Ciaran Carey as key elements of any decent data centre solution at present. He said that from a management perspective, all of the above will appeal to perspective customers who demand a 24/365 view of server performance parameters. "The usual suspects (IBM, HP and Dell and Sun) continue to dominate with a plethora of single rack and bladed servers available," he added.
"IT process automation is proving to be a big topic at present. ITIL-based, automated process templates; new integration packs, enabling the software to interact with other systems management tools, now including BMC Atrium, BMC Remedy, Microsoft SCOM, Microsoft Active Directory, and VMware VirtualCenter 2. All of these are gaining popularity."