Consolidation vs. Decentralization Debate Continues In Channel

Scott Robinson, CTO of Datalink, a Minneapolis-based solution provider, said that he expects data centers to become centralized. “The functions out in the remote facilities will be tied to such a data center,” he said. “For example, a lot of customers want to back up data from remote offices to a central location via new replication technologies.”

Another reason to centralize the data center is to turn it into a fortress for a company&s information because it is more difficult to protect distributed data, either from hackers or from terrorists, Robinson said.

“A lot of companies are taking security into consideration, putting data centers in hidden-from-view, nondescript buildings with no windows,” he said.

But Mark Teter, CTO of Denver-based solution provider Advanced Systems Group, anticipates the demise of large data centers in favor of smaller regional data center deployments due to developments such as grid computing, under which storage and server resources become components available across a network.

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At the same time, Teter said he expects enterprises to consolidate various management services into a single business service management architecture, with security integrated into every tier of the application stack. A key enabler of data center consolidation is the continuing reduction in the size of IT equipment, said Dave Butler, president of Enterprise Computing Solutions, a Mission Viejo, Calif.-based solution provider. He likes to joke about how Hewlett-Packard&s largest server, the Superdome, will come out soon in an iPaq format. And HP&s four-way ProLiant servers now outperform that vendor&s high-end V-class servers of only five years ago.

Something as simple as cutting the cost of real estate will also be a driver for data center design in the next year, said Howie Evans, vice president of Dallas Digital Services, a Colleyville, Texas-based solution provider. “Floor space is expensive,” he said.

Another big push for consolidation will come in terms of how services are managed, said Evans. “Customers& main goal is to consolidate across the board, even services,” he said. “They want everything under one agreement.”

Another big part of data center consolidation will revolve around automated administration and utility computing, said Dhruv Gulati, executive vice president of Lilien Systems, Mill Valley, Calif. “Customers and vendors are moving toward less administration and more automation,” he said. “It&s all about driving cost out of the data center.”

Eventually, said Butler, the data center will become a noncritical asset, with three or four large companies providing all the computing power on a utility basis. But before that can happen, the required technology has to be scaled down to the point where companies needing $200,000 or less worth of equipment will see it as a viable alternative.

“So over the next 10 years, we will see utility computing scale down to the smaller companies,” he said. “It will get to the point where they just buy bandwidth. It&s possible that all the power and bandwidth will be in a large building. We&ll carry a personal workstation and just pay for what we need.”

In such a situation, Butler said, the average solution provider will be challenged to come up with a value proposition other than selling a product. “You gotta be nimble and quick,” he said. “There will be new opportunities. But you have to move fast to grab them or it&s buggy-whip time.”

Gulati said not to expect to see the same vendors in the data center of 2015 that one sees today. “Sun [Microsystems] and Unisys won&t be around,” he said. “EMC will be a software company. HP, IBM and Dell will be there. But what HP looks like depends very much on what [HP CEO Mark] Hurd does now.”