My Key Takeaways from the 2010 Gartner Data Center Conference

More than 2,000 data center professionals attended the annual 2010 Gartner Data Center Conference in Las Vegas. Some of the year’s most significant issues and trends discussed were: the ever-expanding need for storage, data center design, what’s working in virtualization, public versus private cloud computing, how to retain a skilled IT workforce, energy efficiency, legacy migration, converged fabrics, and the recession’s impact on IT investment.  It was also interesting to see some of the new products and services on the conference show floor, including Intel’s which was a sponsor and had a booth.

The conference also had several interactive features like live audience polling.  For example, in the opening session, Conference Chair Mike Chuba took the pulse of IT budgets and discovered the following: most attendees’ budgets will stay flat or even increase by as much as 10% in 2011. A third of respondents (33%) said they expect their budgets to stay even, while nearly a quarter (24%) anticipated an increase of at least 6%, and half of those were looking at a 10% rise. When asked to identify their biggest data center challenge, 23% of the audience zeroed in on power and cooling, while 16% cited the need for a cloud strategy as one of their burning issues.

Some of my key takeaways by focus area:

Cloud computing

Cloud computing is coming to the enterprise from all directions, and quickly. Cloud computing isn’t defined by one product or technology alone. Gartner believes its a style of computing that conforms to these key characteristics: delivery of IT-enabled capabilities “as a service” to consumers, delivery of services in a highly scalable and elastic fashion, and the use of Internet technologies and techniques to develop and deliver services.

In another cloud poll, 55% of polled attendees cited agility/speed as the main driver in moving to private clouds, while 21% said it was cost.  Intel has been citing agility as one of our key drivers also.

There were a lot of other themes expressed throughout the conference that were consistent with Intel's approach to cloud computing like:

  • Cloud computing services can be delivered at many layers: infrastructure as a service (IaaS); platform as a service (PaaS); software as a service (SaaS); business process as a service (BPaaS).
  • Some IT services are destined for cloud computing; others are not. The latter include those IT services that are business differentiators.
  • When developing a cloud-computing strategy, ask the following questions:
    • Do you need a flexible amount of capacity
    • Do you need management services
    • Do you need a pool ofcapacity that can be dynamically reallocated between applications
    • Can the application be Internet-facing
    • Are you using a popular application framework etc.
  • The decision to leverage cloud computing is a business one, and it should address the following concerns:
    • Does it generate a new business opportunity or just reduce costs
    • Is there a business case for investment
    • Should the initial effort be public or private
    • Can it meet service-level agreements and security requirements at a lower cost etc.

Cloud computing doesn't come with no risks attached.  Some of the top concerns of implementing the cloud included: security and privacy, performance, and nascency of the ecosystem.  Specifically on security some of the fears were around data compromise risk (encryption is a partial solution), data loss risk, data portability (standards still immature), and cloud hacking (highly distributed and virtualized doesn't make hacking any harder...)  Virtual Machines are inherently less secure than physical servers.  For example, compromise of a hypervisor affects all hosted workloads, there's a lack of visibility and controls on internal VM to VM communications, and risks from combining workloads of different trust levels (ie., DMZ workloads, PCI, ERP (SOX), etc.).  Today some of the most important virtualized security controls are virtual firewalls, virtual IDS/IPS, and Virtual Anti-Virus without agents in each VM.

Virtualization

Virtualization is neither a single technology, nor a set of technologies buried in infrastructure. Rather it’s now an obligatory function that has important ramifications for business use of IT, business itself and for all aspects of IT—from architecture to development and production. It’s not just about servers, it’s about everything. Virtualization enables IT to become more scalable and flexible while using fewer resources.  Virtualization is a continuing process, not a project that should be finished.

More than half of attendees said their annual growth rate for storage capacity is at least 50%.  Meanwhile 30% of the attendees expect an annual growth rate of between 50% to 70%.  With respect to servers, 38% have more than 10 sites that house servers. However 55% of polled attendees indicated that their organizations will use fewer sites over the next three years.

Energy and green IT

Today, consumption is as critical to an organization as performance. New construction as well as retrofits tend to focus on efficiency and reuse. But with growing EPA and EU involvement, the power issue is moving up the food chain.

Do you agree with the trends above or have your experience been different?  I'd love to hear from you!

Ajay