With the global recession in full swing for much of 2009, data center managers saw their IT budgets shredded while the demand for services only grew.
Given that, it’s no surprise that when data center professionals look to 2010, at the top of their wish list is money-not only money for their budgets, but also for technologies that will help them save money on the bottom line.
“They’re hoping to see budgets again in 2010,” said Roger Kay, an analyst with Endpoint Technologies Associates. “Some dough is what they’d like. They’re all for refreshing clients now that [Microsoft’s Windows 7] is here, and generally shortening the average system life, but [they] have been severely constrained this year.”
Bob Gill, an analyst with TheInfoPro, said that in surveys of IT professionals, he’s finding the same thing. They need money.
“Money is an issue,” Gill said. “People are saying, -I want my budget back.'”
That won’t be easy. According to research firm Gartner, worldwide IT spending dropped about 5.2 percent in 2009, with enterprise spending declining 6.9 percent. And while IT spending in 2010 is expected to grow 3.3 percent, to about $3.3 trillion, more than 50 percent of CIOs expect their budgets to remain flat or to decline.
So while money might be high on the wish list for data center administrators going into 2010, many of the other items seem to be technologies that help save on capital or operational expenses. If you can’t grow your budget, you might as well try to lessen the pressure on what you have.
High on the wish list are virtualization and cloud computing-both the products offered in these areas and the tools needed to make them work well.
Gill said that IT professionals in his surveys say they are interested in both vSphere 4, VMware’s newest-generation virtualization platform, and Microsoft’s Hyper-V virtualization technology. That dovetails with a survey TheInfoPro conducted this year that found that while VMware is still the dominant virtualization technology vendor in the data center, a growing number of users are open to trying other offerings, in particular Hyper-V and Citrix Systems’ XenServer.
They’re also looking for tools that make it easier to manage their virtual environments. For Jevin Jensen, senior director of IS technical services at Mohawk Industries, that would mean better disaster recovery capabilities of virtual servers in the cloud.
“Most of the cloud vendors require you to use their -golden image’ for the virtual machine, don’t support spanning our internal VLANs, and/or don’t have the same SAN [storage-area network] vendor/mirroring software we use,” Jensen said in an e-mail. “These all limit the usefulness of doing real-time disaster recovery at this time. Hopefully that will change later in 2010.”
IDC analyst Matt Eastwood said data center administrators also are looking for better integrated management tools. And Endpoint’s Kay said integration in virtualized environments is key.
“Virtualization is all well and good, but they’d like to see it fully integrated with servers, storage and networking resources fully abstracted and unified,” he said.
The growth in the use of virtualization in 2009-at the expense of buying hardware-highlights the desire of data center managers to grow their budgets again, TheInfoPro’s Gill said.
“They were forced into virtualizing things they were not ready to virtualize because of the economic situation,” he said. “But if they had the money, they’d definitely go out and buy hardware, so that illustrates their desire to get their budgets back.”
They’re also anxious to see a cloud computing environment that they’re comfortable with, “where they can begin to experiment with which things can safely be run outside the firewall,” Kay said.
Desktop virtualization also is something that data center managers are anxious to take a look at. Proponents of the technology talk about the impact desktop virtualization can have in reducing capital and operational expenses by reducing the number of physical systems they’ll need, and making desktop management and security easier.
“What people really expect to deploy in 2010-at least in pilots-is virtualized desktops,” he said.
While there are a host of options out there for IT professionals to choose from, most are looking at either VMware’s offerings or Citrix’s XenDesktop.
Data center managers also are looking at hardware that they hope will save them money on power, cooling and capital expenses. According to Gill, Intel’s upcoming eight-core“Nehalem EX” processor-for servers with four or more sockets-is high on the list of what IT professionals want. The chip, which is due out in early 2010, offers such features as Turbo Boost-which can crank up the speed of individual cores as workloads demand-Hyper Threading and QuickPath high-speed interconnect technology.
The chip, which Intel officials say will help OEMs build x86-based servers that will challenge the larger RISC- and EPIC-based systems, will offer greater performance and energy efficiency, all of which will help drive down costs. They also will help with server consolidation projects.
On surveys, Gill said IT professionals also are expressing interest in trying out Cisco Systems’ UCS (Unified Computing System), an all-in-one converged data center offering that integrates blade servers, networking products and management software from Cisco, along with storage from EMC and virtualization technology from VMware.
The Cisco offering promises to reduce operating expenses by 30 percent, a large figure for any data center, he said. However, even though many data center administrators say they want to try UCS out-particularly after seeing it run many of the operations at the VMworld 2009 show in September-where it’s getting the most interest is in greenfield environments, such as new data centers, he said.
“They’re saying, -I’m unlikely to deploy blade servers from Cisco in the next six months,’ but they are excited about it,” Gill said.
Cisco is one of a number of major OEMs-with others including Hewlett-Packard, Dell and IBM-looking to offer converged data center solutions, with the idea that more tightly integrated offerings could lead to reduced operating expenses.
Data center administrators also are looking at storage options-including IBM’s XIV enterprise storage system-and networking as ways to consolidate resources and save money.
For Mohawk’s Jensen, that would be lossless FCoE (Fibre Channel over Ethernet).
“While FCoE is now an approved standard, lossless Ethernet is not,” Jensen said. “I’m not confident that using just FCoE at this time for high I/O servers connected to the SAN would be reliable. If lossless was approved and reliable, then further consolidation of servers and networks could occur along with simplified cabling in the data center.”
He also is looking for ways to reduce power and cooling costs, including a cost-effective way to measure power usage at the rack level, and “a closed-loop water cooling system for each rack in buildings that don’t have a chiller conveniently installed.”
Gill said operating system changes also are high on the wish lists. Data center administrators want to upgrade to Microsoft’s Windows Server 2008 R2 and Red Hat’s Enterprise Linux 5.4, both of which bring greater virtualization capabilities.
A growing number of IT professionals also are looking to migrate from Unix to Linux, particularly customers of Sun Microsystems’ Solaris OS who might be concerned about the impending acquisition by Oracle. Businesses that in the past might have considered using Solaris x86 are now doing so as a bridge to Linux, Gill said.