1. Recession Changes the Game: The economic downturn will have a complex effect on the datacenter world that will be long lasting. IT and infrastructure budgets will shrink and will shift from investments in in-house operations to more cost-effective co-location, managed hosting or Cloud Computing providers. ROIs will have to be re-justified for any new data center projects that were planned or are under way. Look for existing vendor relationships and contracts to be reviewed for any wiggle room in pricing. Customers will look for lower operational costs in their co-lo, managed hosting or cloud providers, which in turn will cause these providers to focus on delivering the highest energy efficiency (performance per watt). In response to the overall shift to outsourcing datacenter operations, system vendors will start to realign for a different sales and partnership model – selling entire data centers as a product, with all of the components bundled as one solution, including hardware, software and services.

2. Open the Windows: High-temperature data centers, some without any mechanical cooling systems, will be seriously explored in 2009 and some experimental trial sites will be implemented. Currently, servers run typically between 68 to 81 degrees Fahrenheit, and millions are spent on air conditioning to keep them within this range. But most servers are designed to run at 95 degrees for at least a few hours in the event of an air conditioning failure. And products currently designed for telco customers are typically even more resilient. We're getting requests now from businesses in desert environments to run full-time without air conditioning in rooms at 105 degrees. While heat-resistant servers are developed, we are already seeing increased use of air-side economizers, water-side economizers, hot and cold aisle containment, evaporative cooling and cooler geographic locations to take advantage of ambient temperatures.

3. Tune in to Turn-offs: Power management will be used to throttle down servers (and other IT equipment) when not in use, something not done effectively today. We know of many data centers where the average utilization is 15 percent, because the data center is sized for peak demand (which only happens infrequently) but continues to remain fully powered up during non-peak times. If your utilization peaks at 70 percent to 80 percent for a few hours in a week, then spending the megawatts to service that demand is fine, but if your utilization is only 5 percent for the rest of the time, continuing to spend the same megawatts is a waste. We will see virtual machine migration, used in conjunction with powering down unused servers, to dramatically save IT energy in the data center (and a proportionate amount of facilities energy depending on the PUE factor). Ultimately, this process would be automated, dynamic and fail-safe and could save significant energy across operations. System vendors will work to ensure that servers can turn off and on multiple times with minimal impact on server reliability.

4. More With Less: Further improvements in energy efficiency that reduce watts/compute workload will continue to be a priority, given high ROI for end users. The Green Grid, ASHRAE, and the Climate Savers Computing Initiative are among the groups continuing to push the market forward in energy efficiency. This is also crucial as computing intensive businesses, including those we refer to as Red Shift, push to the limit their power, space and cooling envelopes at their various facilities (mostly in urban areas). This will cause them to rethink their entire infrastructure, with massive data consolidation. Companies will push to use fewer, more efficient servers to handle their computing needs, freeing up additional energy capacity. This will allow them to grow in current locations – regardless of if the local utility can provide additional electrical capacity. Virtualization – one of the hottest topics of 2008 – will continue to be implemented aggressively, saving potentially 50 percent to 80 percent of the IT energy consumption of older, non-virtualized architectures.

5. Show Me the Megawatts: As vendors compete and collaborate to drive down energy use and costs, coming out with some very cool (if ultimately impractical) concepts, datacenter operators are going to demand more details on what works and what doesn't for their specific requirements with real-life examples, system competitions, and other kick-the-tire opportunities, as well as detailed cost analyses. Nothing new, but in a recessionary period they'll be extra cautious about investing in the next big thing. It will become increasingly clear that energy efficiency is not a "nice to have" but an essential business strategy. As part of this, we'll see improvements in energy metrics and measurement techniques, such as power monitoring tools that monitor power down to the individual server level, and data center tools that provide elementary PUE calculations. End users will also ask for more guidance from vendors on how to design next-gen datacenters (again, not just servers or air conditioning, but a holistic IT and facilities architecture that is reciprocally responsive to changes on either side. Datacenter blueprints will continue to evolve and proliferate, as will the service organizations to implement these.

6. Globally Cool Communities Will Help Fight Global Warming: Collaboration will continue to drive progress forward through new standards, best practices and open tools as we scramble to meet energy and climate goals -- finding that we're far behind where we need to be. Platforms like OpenEco.org will bring better tools to more people through social media platforms that spread insight quickly and broadly, and spark new discoveries. Along with Sun, Microsoft has been pretty strong in the area of sharing knowledge and pushing the market to innovate. Even Google is starting to take steps toward openness. Industry groups (e.g., Uptime Institute, Ashrae, The Green Grid) will also help drive the market forward and connect the dots between government, industry, utilities, environmental groups (e.g., Ceres, Bicep) and other stakeholders in green datacenters.

This opinion piece is from an independent writer and is not connected with Greentech Media News. The views expressed here are those of the author and are not endorsed by Greentech Media.