Gartner’s 2012 Data Center Conference in Las Vegas is noted for not yielding any major surprise. While having an uncanny number of attendees (*the stats are not available, however it is clear they are having a very good conference), most of the sessions appear to be simply reaffirming what everybody really knows already, serving to reinforce the reality data center consolidation, cloud computing, big data, and the move to an interoperable framework will be part of everybody’s life within a few years.
Gartner analyst Ray Paquet started the morning by drawing a line at the real value of server hardware in cloud computing. Paquet stressed that cloud adopters should avoid integrated hardware solutions based on blade servers, which carry a high margin, and focus their CAPEX on cheaper “skinless” servers. Paquet emphasized that integrated solutions are a “waste of money.”
Cameron Haight, another Gartner analyst, fired a volley at the process and framework world, with a comparison of the value DevOps brings versus ITIL. Describing ITIL as a cumbersome burden to organizational agility, DevOps is a culture-changer that allows small groups to quickly respond to challenges. Haight emphasized the frequently stressful relationship between development organizations and operations organizations, where operations demands stability and quality, and development needs freedom to move projects forward, sometimes without the comfort of baking code to the standards preferred by operations – and required by frameworks such as ITIL.
Haight’s most direct slide described De Ops as being “ITIL minus CRAP.” Of course most of his supporting slides for moving to DevOps looked eerily like an ITIL process….
Other sessions attended (by the author) included “Shaping Private Clouds,” a WIPRO product demonstration, and a data center introduction by Raging Wire. All valuable introductions for those who are considering making a major change in their internal IT deployments, but nothing cutting edge or radical.
The Raging Wire data center discussion did raise some questions on the overall vulnerability of large box data centers. While it is certainly possible to build a data center up to any standard needed to fulfill a specific need, the large data center clusters in locations such as Northern Virginia are beginning to appear very vulnerable to either natural, human, or equipment failure disruptions. In addition to fulfilling data center tier classification models as presented by the Uptime Institute, it is clear we are producing critical national infrastructure which if disrupted could cause significant damage to the US economy or even social order.
Eventually, much like the communications infrastructure in the US, data centers will need to come under the observation or review of a national agency such as Homeland Security. While nobody wants a government officer in the data center, protection of national infrastructure is a consideration we probably will not be able to avoid for long.
Raging Wire also noted that some colocation customers, particularly social media companies, are hitting up to 8kW per cabinet. Also scary if true, and in extended deployments. This could result in serious operational problems if cooling systems were disrupted, as the heat generated in those cabinets will quickly become extreme. Would also be interesting if companies like Raging Wire and other colocation companies considered developing a real time CFD monitor for their data center floors allowing better monitoring and predictability than simple zone monitoring solutions.
The best presentation of the day came at the end, “Big Data is Coming to Your Data Center.” Gartner’s Sheila Childs brought color and enthusiasm to a topic many consider, well, boring. Childs was able to bring the value, power, and future of big data into a human consumable format that kept the audience in their seats until the end of session at 6 p.m. in the late afternoon.
Childs hit on concepts such as “dark data” within organizations, the value of big data in decision support systems (DSS), and the need for developing and recruiting skilled staff who can actually write or build the systems needed to fully exploit the value of big data. We cannot argue that point, and can only hope our education system is able to focus on producing graduates with the basic skills needed to fulfill that requirement.