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Does overhauling the data center mean changing the network?

This week I read survey results showing IT priorities in 2008, and was surprised to see how much the top IT priorities involved the network. So I did a little research.

The following article focuses on the network worker’s priorities alone: Disaster recovery, convergence and security top 2008 networking to-do lists. Putting these articles side-by-side made me see that very few priorities differed. The top priority for both networking and IT managers, for example, was disaster recovery. What was even more interesting was that even though the networking survey included questions on typical networking topics (i.e., routing, security, wireless, etc.) disaster recovery and data center topics came up very high in the results.

According to the IT manager questionnaire, almost half of IT managers surveyed plan to renovate and/or build a new data center (shown in the figure below):

Figure 1 — Lots of new data centers: In 2008, will you build or renovate a new data center?

So what might these data center changes have to do with the network? Below, you can see that 50% of those who plan to build/renovate a data center are incorporating new networking technology:

Figure 2: New technologies coming to new data centers
Will your new data center contain new technology?
(Respondents able to select more than one response.)

There’s a reason why so many people are making this change. Schlack says “New data center construction is a response to the need for more capacity but also for better disaster recovery capabilities and better use of energy.”

These changes must surely be a result, too, of the outmoded architecture in place. News Writer Michael Morisy’s found that the average age of a data center is 18 to 20 years old, which is to say that cooling and other mechanisms are grossly out of date. Even half that time ago the data center looked and behaved quite differently.

In Cooling a blade server, networking infrastructure expert Carrie Higbie explains: “Ten years ago, data centers consisted primarily of a mainframe and maybe a few PC servers. This is far different than what is in a data center today. We have Cisco 6500 series switches or maybe Force10, Extreme or Foundry switches — whatever the manufacturer, they are probably large chassis-based switches unless you are a smaller enterprise. While power was probably added, cooling may not have been.”

For better or for worse, a lot of money this year is being put toward data center overhauling. “Despite the large capital expenditures involved,” Morisy says, “upgrading these antiquated facilities begins to make more sense.” We aren’t relying on the same information that came out 20 years ago to get us through today, so why would we try to rely on architecture long passed its due date?

Are you happy with where these priorities lie? Perhaps network workers are finally being heard (and understood) and the money is finally going to the right place. On the other hand, maybe these expenditures are costing more than just money. Are you seeing negative or positive effects from this change, and do you see changes in the data center directly affecting your network?

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