Big numbers in the data center – Data Tsunami ?

First the supply side. Looking at the growth projections in compute capacity delivered by Intel based servers ( with 45nm silicon, more cores and more efficiency ( enabling density)), data centers have the potential to increase compute capacity by 40x over the next five years. <pause to let 40x sink in> Yes, I said 40 times the capacity in the same space and power footprint. My initial reaction to this thought was ‘whoa' or better stated ‘whoa with several expletives'. Does this mean Intel, and the rest of the server market, will sell fewer bits? Employment wise I selfishly want the server business to grow.

As I began to explore the other side of the economy - the demand side - I began to relax, maybe even get a bit optimistic / excited. Let's start with the trends. Multiple market indicators show data volumes doubling every year. Of course this is not uniformly distributed, but on average that is a potential 32X increase in data over the next five years. <another moment to ponder what you will do with 32 times as much data>. This alone is probably enough to consume my 40x growth, but when I add the other magnifying trends, it will blow past all my capacity estimates. For example if user population is growing at 10%/year, we boost the 5 year growth in capacity demand to something near 50X, actually 51, but these are all calculations worthy of a napkin. 50x is bigger than 40x, but there is more. I am not sure how to quantify all other factors, like the expanding desire of the business to do more. From the customers I have spoken with I get the sense that most businesses are still pushing IT for more value through faster decisions, faster BI, etc. If this only adds 5% capacity demand per year, we are suddenly knocking on the door of 65x. <another moment to ponder 65x capacity demand> That is 65 times as many transactions! Not 65% more but 65 times more.

So, using all the best bits money can buy, many data center managers will still run out of capacity. The server business still looks good. Whew.

How to meet that capacity gap? Is it time to break ground on new data centers? Maybe, but maybe not... I mention some alternatives here, and plan to keep poking at ‘ways to avoid data center capital'.