Datacentre managers look to IT to deliver benefits in 2008

Datacentre managers who championed virtualisation and green computing in 2007 now face the task of delivering the benefits they promised – something industry watchers say will be no small feat.

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Datacentre managers who championed virtualisation and green computing in 2007 now face the task of delivering the benefits they promised – something industry watchers say will be no small feat.

As projects move beyond the planning phase into broader deployment, datacentre managers will need to evaluate how they are going to manage and support the new technologies without overhauling their entire infrastructure, commentators have warned.

"Virtualisation and green computing will flip-flop for a while, because they represent challenges beyond what they are said to do," says Robert Whiteley, senior analyst at Forrester Research.

"We will see a bit of a virtualisation hangover at first, because while a lot of people have embraced the technology and seen some success on x86 servers, virtualisation forces IT to look differently at managing an environment. And the greening of IT, that is going to be a challenge because a lot of companies don't have a full grasp on what it is yet."

A further issue is that virtual server management technology will become more critical as VMware faces competition in the hypervisor market that until now included few players.

With Citrix (considering its XenSource buy), Microsoft, Oracle and Sun all having plans for virtualisation, datacentre managers will for the first time "face islands of hypervisors within their IT shops," which will have to be managed as a cohesive whole to truly cash in on the benefits of the technology, says James Staten, principal analyst at Forrester Research.

Hypervisor providers and management vendors alike will be working to deliver the platform on which multivendor virtual servers can be managed. For instance, VMware acquired virtual server management software maker Dunes Technologies earlier this year.

"The market is going to see the need for a heterogeneous virtualisation management platform that we haven't seen up until this point," Staten said. "It will cause a significant shake-up in the management space when start-ups pop up, and bigger players that haven't been doing a very good job will look to acquire them."

In addition, datacentre managers are considering virtualising not only server resources, but also storage, network, desktop and application resources – all of which will drive a need for more comprehensive management tools. But datacentre managers aren't about to replace their existing management tools, so industry watchers say vendors will have to work to cover more platforms and develop standards to help customers manage heterogeneous environments.

"A big debate in 2008 will be around how to put hooks into management tools from the multiple virtual resources, and datacentre automation will become even more critical," Whiteley said.

Likewise, green computing will also pose challenges. Industry watchers say that working towarsd a greener computing environment isn't going to be easy for most datacentre managers due to technical, political and other reasons outside the control of IT.

"Legislation is coming about putting corporate responsibility programs in place, but in a lot of cases IT doesn't fall under the umbrella of corporate responsibility," says Zeus Kerravala, senior vice president of global enterprise research at the Yankee Group. "IT needs to start understanding more about datacentre facilities and find ways to design datacentres to eat up less power."

According to Steven Harris, director of datacentre planning and design at consultancy Forsythe Technology, the amount of power that datacentres consume has doubled in the past five years and it is projected to double again in five years. Because the datacentre consumes a significant amount of the resources from facilities, many will be looking to IT to be more cost-effective and conserve energy.

"When people think about how they can save money and lower operating costs, unfortunately the big changes from the facilities side – such as replacing an electrical or mechanical system – are extremely expensive and introduce significantly more risk," Harris says. "So companies will be looking to IT to make changes such as consolidation, virtualisation and optimisation to lower costs and do so without causing major outages."

For IT, that means finding ways to reduce their power consumption – but not necessarily because they care about the environment. Forrester's Staten said in 2008 datacentre managers would be tasked with "energy auditing," which involves understanding the entire power path from the utility to the CPU. But while vendors will paint such efforts as green computing, companies are generally looking to cut costs.

"Being green is not the main driver for trying to conserve power. It's a cost-driven measure for IT," he said.

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