Key Trends Shaping the Future of Data Center Infrastructure Through 2011

A recent survey conducted by Gartner addressing the key challenges faced by large enterprises when it comes to their data centers. The survey revealed that data growth was the biggest hardware infrastructure issue faced by these organizations followed closely by system performance and scalability and network congestion and connectivity architectures. The survey also explored what technologies the organizations were looking into to tackle the issues, the prime drivers for the change and their long term philosophy to deal with change in the data center industry in general.


How companies plan to tackle data growth

Considering that cost containment is a practice that is religiously followed in most organizations, tackling the data growth issue seems to be the logical step as this problem is associated with increased cost with regards to new hardware, supporting software and maintenance etc. To resolve this issue, as many as 62% of the companies are focusing their attention on data archiving and retirement projects. Other projects include data security from internal, external or hacking risks (54%), storage consolidation (53%), storage management tools (52%) and data reduction technique (49%).

How companies plan to scale up their resources to meet the needs

As the recession drew to an end in 2010, the companies started to refocus on growth. They found that the existing resources could not cater to the growing demand and they desperately needed an upgrade or, in some cases, a change in technology itself. Servers with better efficiency and scalability option started to flood the market. To meet the needs of improved server performance, most organizations have now turned to server virtualization. Blade servers are turning out to be the solution to scalability issues.

How companies plan to deal with network related issues

Network congestion and connectivity architecture issues have risen up mainly due to the increased deployment of server consolidation and virtualization projects. Due to virtualization, the input/output demands of the servers have gone up and the local LAN switches are unable to shoulder this sudden surge in network demand. Also, with everyone going mobile, there is a huge load for WAN to handle. The only solution to this is to come up with better networking infrastructure and the companies are investing a huge amount of resources in this field.


50 percent of the organization claimed that the key driver for the change in the data centers was business continuity and round the clock availability. Cost containment initiatives came in as a distant second biggest driver for change (37 percent) followed by a close need to improve user services and satisfaction (36 percent). Interestingly, the desire to ‘Go Green’ did not appear even in the top five reasons for change.

The most preferred option to ensure business continuity and availability was server load balancing (62 percent). Considering that server load balancing helps to minimize server response time, improve SLAs and maintain uptime and avoid crashes, it is not difficult to see why companies worldwide are opting for this technology. This was followed by database or file based replication (55 percent) and redesign of backup and recovery (55 percent) with both the technologies acting as a safety net in case of a crash.

The most popular technology to facilitate cost containment initiatives was, as expected, virtualization with 75 percent of the companies preferring this over data reduction techniques (53 percent) or data center management tools (49 percent). It is to be noted that although server virtualization would save on initial capital expenditure, it would lead to more sophisticated network connectivity problems and virtual server sprawl issues. Although cloud services seem to be a solution to cost containment issue without overly taxing the network, most organizations are still reluctant to consider it.

To maintain or improve user services, 60 percent of the organizations reported that they were working on data recovery projects, followed by WAN optimization (51 percent). Coming in third was interest in traffic flow monitoring tools at 49 percent.


Apart from the constant challenges the companies are having to face on the data growth, system performance and network connection fronts, they also have to focus their attention on issues like power, cooling and space costs and data center management issues. All these problems have to be dealt with limited capital at their disposal.

When asked what changes/ additions the companies wanted to see made by the end of 2011, about 60 percent of them planned to expand the capacity of their existing data centers. In companies where expanding the capacity of the data centers is an impossibility owing to factors like not being able to afford additional capital expenditure, or not having physical room or sufficient infrastructure in the existing data centers, one- third of them seem to be turning to collocation while another 30 percent of the companies insist on building a new data center.


Although cloud seems to provide a better solution to all the challenges faced by the companies at what seems to be a more reasonable price, organizations are reluctant to completely rely on it. The top ranked challenge among the companies is data growth that can clearly be resolved by the scalable and elastic qualities of the cloud. Performance and scalability being one of the most alluring features of cloud can clearly be addressed by the same. Network congestion can be slightly tricky but if public cloud computing can be used along with public cloud storage, the issue can be resolved.

Despite the needs of the organizations and the benefits of cloud, the management seems to be playing safe by exploring all other options before turning to the cloud. Although the number of enterprises now favoring cloud has increased from last year, the number of organizations still hesitating is significant. It looks like cloud service providers still have a lot of marketing, educating and awareness spreading to do.


For more on data centers, and the current trends shaping them, visit Data Center Talk

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