Cover Story: The Mobile Technology Revolution

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Data Center

Mobile apps might be the Holy Grail of data center management: wonderful to think about, thrilling to imagine using, but totally out of reach for the foreseeable future.

For now, however, solution providers and their customers have to be satisfied with mobile apps that help manage specific parts of the data center, but not the whole.

There are mobile apps for managing server infrastructures, storage infrastructures, virtualization, security, software applications, and more. But when it comes to managing the data center itself, the technology is not yet available, said William Bell, director of information systems at Phoenix NAP, a provider of co-location services.

“In a traditional data center like a co-lo facility, you won’t see a trend toward space and power providers attempting to provide space and power reports in the data center,” Bell said. “You see a definite lack of that transparency in general.”

The real promised land is to have an Information-as-a-Service experience in a single app, Bell said. “If I am consuming multiple IaaS resources in a data center, I want to be able to log into my mobile device and look at all the resources,” he said. “I want a single pane of glass.”

The requirements for such apps are growing, but solutions or even the proxy management of those solutions are not available, except perhaps on a one-off basis from large wholesale services providers, Bell said. “But five to 10 years from now -- I believe it will take that long for it to become the norm in the standard data centers,” he said. “IaaS in the data center has a long way to go.”

Denali Advanced Integration, Redmond, Wash., which recently became an enterprise iOS provider for Apple technology, is developing apps for managing parts of the data center, driven in part by customer requirements and in part by Denali’s own needs, said Chris Gerhardt, Denali president.

Customers eventually will adopt zero-client technologies for mobile devices, but it is unclear how quickly, Gerhardt said. However, he said, it is already happening at Denali, which is also developing such apps. “The majority of our infrastructure services team is on the Mac now, or moving to the Mac,” he said. “That includes our storage and security experts. We’re seeing a divergence in our fleet towards choice. There are a lot of iPads around. The versatility in that platform is the primary driver.”

—Joseph F. Kovar

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