Posted by: Greg Ness | May 9, 2012

SDN May Drive a New Data Center Development Cycle

Commoditization of network hardware will increase data center power demands by enabling new levels of elasticity in IT infrastructure.

This is a follow-on blog post on HP’s OpenFlow announcement (HP Takes a Shot at the Hardware-Centric Network) as it relates to the impact that OpenFlow and the subsequent commoditization of network hardware could have on overall data center demand.

Many of today’s production data centers are static by nature.  They are filled with a myriad of specialized appliances that are all potential bottlenecks to the flow of data between ever powerful servers and devices. 

When VMware commoditized servers the mantra was “greater IT efficiency” enabled by being able to run multiple apps/workloads on a single server.  The net effect was more powerful and more energy efficient servers that could scale up and down based on demand.

At the time when VMware brought virtualization into production, data centers were commonly running out of space, housing more servers than they effectively needed.  Enterprises needed each server to run in order to keep a single application or service accessible for potential use, 24/7. VMware allowed enterprise IT shops to condense more power (and more applications) into smaller amounts of floor space.  The net effect: data centers started running out of power instead of space.

One Gartner analyst I questioned at an event recently in Redwood City commented that about 90% of his inquiries today are about data center power (cost and capacity).  Hence, a recent Nemertes study about The Coming Colocation Crunch in both retail and wholesale data centers.

When networks are commoditized there will be a second wave power dynamic fueled by ever larger servers running a variety of network management and security applications.  More processors, more power consumption (even with vastly more efficient servers) coming from the same square footage of data center space.  Enterprise IT will get new economies of scale and efficiencies and yet will need even more power.

QED, just as data center demand (for power not sheer space) is “juiced” by the spread of virtualization and new private cloud operating models, another wave hits; this time driven by x86 networking.  As Gartner’s data center guru  David Cappuccio advised at last year’s Data Center Summit, data centers may shrink in space requirements yet need more power.  That will force the development of new vertically scalable* data centers that can handle sizable increases in power consumption within the same IT floor space.

*Note: Very few vertically scalable data centers have been built to date, so Cappuccio’s vision is well ahead of most wholesale data center developers.  Vantage Data Centers (my employer) has built what may be perhaps the first (vertically scalable wholesale data center)in Santa Clara.  You can read all about it here.


Responses

  1. […] Greg Ness opines on how the commoditization of network hardware could drive a new data center development cycle. […]


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