The basic tasks of running a data center will change out of all recognition in the near future, according to an expert panel speaking at Interop NY on Wednesday, and there really aren't any easy blueprints to follow.
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The challenges posed by some of the hottest trends in modern business IT, such as cloud computing and BYOD, as well as simple facts of life like increasing server density and commensurate energy costs, all point to vast increases in demand for computing resources.
"The more power and more density you put in it, the more your energy costs are going to go up," said DataGryd CEO Peter Feldman. "Everybody tries to cram as much processing power into as small a server as possible."
Some don't appreciate the extent to which compact, powerful processors consume large amounts of energy, he added.
In fact, noted Verne Global CEO Jeff Monroe, data centers take up fully 2% of all global power consumption. "[What's] even more unbelievable is that that power is consumed, by and large, right in major cities - not the greenest and not the cheapest solution."
Location was a hot topic for the panel, which noted that where a data center is built has a major effect on its energy efficiency. Data centers in Iceland, for example, benefit both from a chilly climate - meaning that cooling can be done simply by cracking the windows, rather than spending more money on air conditioning systems and energy to power them - and the presence of geothermal energy sources, which makes them less expensive to run.
However, this doesn't mean that data center efficiency is simply a matter of moving the world's computing hardware above the Arctic Circle. The panel agreed that latency is often a tradeoff for facilities located in remote areas - which are likely to be far from the places where their resources are needed.
That said, Huawei product marketing Vice President Steve Collen said there are ways around the problem.
"You can deal with [latency] on the machine or deal with it between machines," he said. "There's a definite trend towards interconnecting data centers across really long distances with optical and microwave technologies," noting that this is a boon for disaster recovery as well.
In the end, Monroe said, the choice likely comes down to the use to which a particular facility will be put.
"There are applications that are best close-in, and there are applications that can work great further out," he said.
Email Jon Gold at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.
Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.