Data center standards for the new world order: Are yours up to snuff?

Data center standards are evolving, but is your data center architecture? Jonathan Hassell walks through the five biggest trends in data center planning.

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Technology and the world of IT never slow down: That's no surprise. The data center architecture that you so diligently plotted out five or 10 years ago is now completely irrelevant in the face of today's bring-your-own-device demands and the escalating price of data center cooling. But don't weep for what has been lost -- the smart CIO knows that data center planning is an ongoing series of course corrections. This continuous march...

forward is particularly visible to end users, but you can also see it in data center standards.

Jonathan Hassell
Jonathan Hassell

Here are the top five data center architecture phenomen a that you need to take into account when engaging in data center planning with an eye toward the future.

Private cloud computing is all the rage. The idea behind private cloud computing is that IT departments become essentially mini-service providers for their own internal corporate customers, offering a distributed platform upon which internal applications can be built, run and scaled. Developers and departments can still get the benefits of scale-out capacity, machine-level transparency and fault tolerance without entrusting a separate party with control over how that infrastructure is run or the data stored within that infrastructure. Private cloud computing is all about virtualization and distributed computing -- spreading the work over many virtualized machines within a network of fault-tolerant hosts. This demand is closely related to the same trend as bring your own device -- which we'll discuss in a bit. There is no denying that if you haven't been asked to create a private cloud computing solution of some type already, you will be soon. It's not a question of if -- it's when.

Utility savings and data center cooling demands are a close second. Power is getting more and more expensive. As data center architecture demands increasing numbers of servers and other equipment stuffed into computer rooms, both the power consumed by the machines themselves, as well as the associated data center cooling costs, are on the rise. You should investigate which hardware manufacturers and software developers are working together to understand the energy implications for their devices and code. With an eye toward data center cooling, you should demand that vendors provide an overall compelling energy usage picture.

Disaster recovery -- or avoidance -- is super important. Let us not forget the disaster when much of Amazon's Web Services’ cloud "fabric" was down for days at a time this past spring. Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS) has also suffered from highly publicized delays and outages, which caused real problems and cost real money to businesses that rely exclusively on cloud services. With everything moving to the cloud, keeping the lights on and the bits moving becomes even more important. Smart CIOs will ask questions about their backup plan's backup before that 3 a.m. phone call answers it for them.

Management solutions hold it all together. As companies become more global and data center architecture spreads out across the planet, having the ability to see machines, services and components from a single tool can be a key competitive differentiator for your company. As you invest in your data center architecture and its attendant technology, consider investing in systems that are both aware of downtime and problems while possessing the intelligence to attempt repairs automatically.

Self-service is en vogue. Get used to the phrase bring your own device because it's here to stay. Users don't want to wait for IT to deliver the resources and services they need: They want to help themselves to groups of machines, bandwidth and storage to deliver data center solutions to customers at their own pace -- without going through a bunch of bureaucracy and approvals. The right data center standard will assist CIOs in developing portals and a delegation strategy that allows freedom for end users while still controlling the points of accountability that IT has traditionally owned.

Jonathan Hassell is president of The Sun Valley Group Inc. He's an author, consultant and speaker in Charlotte, N.C. Hassell's books include RADIUS, Learning Windows Server 2003, Hardening Windows and, most recently, Windows Vista: Beyond the Manual. Contact him at editor@searchcio-midmarket.com.

This was first published in June 2011

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