Data Center Market Sustainable

By Staff July 1, 2006

For those involved with the design and construction of data centers, it’s good news all around. Leading experts report no foreseeable end to the need to build and upgrade these critical facilities.

Speaking at a supply chain event in Nashville, sponsored by Turner Logistics, key executives from EYP Mission Critical Facilities, one of the nation’s top data center design firms, addressed key trends in this market sector. According to Rick Einhorn, the firm’s chief marketing officer, advances in distributed computing and a potential lack of proper facilities to house this increasingly sophisticated—and power-consuming/heat-generating—equipment will continue to drive the market for at least the next three years.

“At least 18 of the top 20 financial institutions are in some kind of build-out right now,” said Einhorn.

And it’s not just banks: Hospitals, big box retailers, the government, universities, Internet companies, telecom, pharma, oil services and even broadcast companies are all building data centers. Granted, Einhorn said, they’re not all at the same degree of reliability as the top banks.

According to Peter Gross, EYP MCF’s CEO, the resurgence is due to much “saner” technology planning. “In the next two or three years we’ll see an enormous amount of money that will be invested into the industry, but it’s investment that’s much more fundamentally driven,” said Gross.

Those fundamentals include an increased need for operational reliability, disaster recovery, independence from the power grid and an ability to deal with the incredible rate of technology “refreshes”—IT equipment retrofits—which occur every three to five years.

Furthermore, Gross said the cost of servers is going down and the number of installations is going up. And as this technology, particularly blade servers, becomes more accessible, we’ll see an explosion.

In fact, he said, in the U.S. right now, there are 9 million servers. By 2009, there will be 16 million—30 million worldwide.

For some perspective, 14—15 blades constitute a typical server. The power load for a typical cabinet is about 2.4 kW. Five years ago, the average was 1.2 kW—a number that held for 20 years. But in two years the 2.4 number will double and continue to grow. “The power being drawn is a function of the information that’s being processed,” said Gross. “And the power—and cooling—loads of these servers is increasing exponentially, especially since this equipment is also being condensed.”

In the long run, the answer may be to turn to DC power. Indeed, Sun Microsystems is already doing so (click here for more information).

“Power is really the name of the game,” said Gross, who went on to note that a top technology officer from Google recently commented that if things don’t change soon, the company will spend more on electricity than it does on hardware.

A silver lining to this issue is that processing chips are hitting their ceiling. Furthermore, new multi-core technology may help reduce the heat generated by processors by breaking up the chip, so to speak. That’s great news for the near future, as cabinet power will dip, said Gross. Unfortunately, he predicted, we’ll be back in the same boat about five years from then.