Data centre upgrades demand attention
Virtualisation and flatter architectures can deliver savings
By Tim Greene | Network World US | Published: 14:41, 21 June 2010
School is out for summer, but it's time for IT executives to hit the books to prepare for a 2011 data centre refresh that delivers cost savings enabled by virtualisation and flatter architectures with lower latency.
Enterprises need to tap major data centre infrastructure vendors, not necessarily to choose one but to hear what they propose and determine how their proposals align with the needs of the company, says Tom Nolle, president of tech consulting firm CIMI Corp.
"The 2011 data centre refresh will be the most complicated thing ever attempted by enterprises," Nolle says. Reading specific proposals from data centre vendors is the best way for decision makers to educate themselves about the real architecture issues, he says. So far, education is lacking.
Based on CIMI surveys, general ignorance about data centre issues is high. Ideally, technology literacy should be identical whether a business has a related project underway or not, Nolle says. That way, potential customers are informed even if they have no immediate need for the technology.
But in the case of data centres, there is a 70% difference in literacy between those who have no ongoing data centre projects and those who do, he says. So businesses just beginning to plan data centre projects have a steep learning curve, especially if they plan to make a purchase near-term.
"That means you're flying by the seat of your pants, and the decision-making process will be stressful," Nolle says. "That's a tough position to be in when management is demanding success and ROI."
However, the urgency to make decisions may not be as great as Nolle projects, suggests Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with the Yankee Group. Redesigning and building virtualised data centres are major projects that warrant time spent choosing the right alternative. Mainstream adoption might not occur until 2012 or 2013, he says, giving more time for consideration while the technology matures. "It needs to be proven that it works, and that's a big leap of faith right now," he says.
One indicator of customer commitment to data centre upgrades is what they spend on data centre switches, says Matthias Machowinski, an analyst with Infonetics. Sales of data centre switches worldwide were $3.2 billion in 2009 and are projected to be $3.7 billion this year. The average growth from 2009 to 2014 is expected to be 10% per year.
That may not seem like extraordinary growth, but during the same time period, the price of 10Gbps ports are expected to drop, so total revenue growth registers a lower rate than growth in numbers of ports, Machowinski says. Infonetics projects 8 million 10Gbps ports will ship in 2010 and 14 million in 2014.
Regardless, the technology is complicated and vendor offerings are different enough to make decisions challenging. Kerravala says the choices vendors offer are more different vendor-to-vendor than they have been for past technologies. "It's unlike what networking has been for a long while - Cisco led and others were either cheaper or faster," he says.