DOES CLOUD COMPUTING THREATEN BRICKS AND MORTAR DATA CENTRES?

Where do you store all your business data? Probably on a server and an external hard drive or two. But what if you’ve got loads of data? Servers and external drives may serve as storage facilities but they don’t really facilitate data management or make data easy to access. Data centres offer convenient storage and management solutions that are flexible enough to meet your needs. They use the latest hardware, offer excellent security, and guarantee minimal downtime.

Security at data centres operates on two levels:

  • Physical security: This entails security guards, alarm systems, and CCTV, cooling systems, and fire protection, etc.
  • Data security: This entails things like firewalls, virus and malware protection, and encryption and generators that will keep power up and running in the event of a power failure.

According to Wikipedia, the IT industry is advancing so quickly that bricks and mortar data centres are struggling to keep up with evolving technology and data needs. Gartner, apparently, says that data centres that are more than seven years old are already obsolete. Unfortunately, the International Data Corporation says that the average age of data centres around the world is nine years old.

In addition to the problem of rapidly evolving hardware and software, obsolescence can be attributed to limited storage capacity. Even vast data centres have limited physical storage capacity. But the cloud – the cloud offers virtually limitless storage.

 

Does the cloud eliminate the need for data centres?

No, it doesn’t. This is the opinion of VMware, which calls itself a ‘next-generation data centre’ as it is ‘optimised for the cloud era’. It offers the best of software-defined data centres and virtual data centres. It entails managing increasing amounts of virtual data across all platforms and applications and enhancing data security and support in a standardised, holistic and resilient manner.

Wikipedia also suggests that data centres will remain relevant, provided they embrace the cloud computing revolution. The authors call the process ‘data centre transformation’, which is descriptive enough. It involves:

  • Standardisation/consolidation: During the step data centres receive hardware and software upgrades and the tools and networks used are standardised.
  • Virtualisation: Much of the standard data centre equipment will be replaced by virtualisation technology, which will reduce operational expenses and increase energy efficiency.
  • Automation: This will apply to things like configuration, release management, compliance and patches.
  • Security: According to Wikipedia, the security systems for modern data centres are pretty much the same for more traditional centres, as they include physical, network, data and user security.

Cloud computing may seem like it’s at odds with the data storage and management methods used by traditional data centres, but the two aren’t mutually exclusive. It will take some adapting but there is no reason why data centres can’t incorporate all the benefits of the cloud in their service offerings.

 

HOW GREEN IS YOUR DATA CENTRE?

Data centres were not built on a reputation for energy efficiency. They did not start earning green credentials until a few years’ ago. Now that everyone knows about carbon footprints and the need for more environmental responsibility, however, data centres are falling over themselves to show how green they are.

The market is booming

In September 2012, Heather Clancy wrote an article which appeared on ZDNet.com, in which she looked at the burgeoning green data centre market. She cites projections from Pike Research, which estimate the money spent on greening data centres will grow from $17.1 billion in 2012 to $45 billion in 2016.

The green trend is not just being driven by conscience, however. It makes financial sense to migrate to energy efficient systems that also reduce operating costs and simplify all manner of business processes. In fact, the quest to reduce carbon footprints has led to some technological innovations that have improved functioning over all.

Everyone is getting in on it

Google was one of the first major IT players to start incorporating green operations in its data centres. At least, it was one of the first major IT players to make a big song and dance about its plans. Since then, a lot of companies have leapt on the green bandwagon. In fact, Microsoft recently announced its plans to invest $348 million in a green data centre in Mecklenburg County, VA. Hardly coincidentally, the data centre will also enable Microsoft to extend its cloud computing capacity.

Microsoft is aiming to create a carbon neutral cloud-based system, which it will achieve with renewable energy credits (eWeek.com).

Zero is where it’s all happening

However, according to an article that was published onBusinessInsider.com in November 2012, Iceland has beaten Microsoft to the punch. What’s more, it’s done it without having to ‘fake it’ with renewable energy credits.

Verne Global owns Iceland’s current largest zero-carbon-footprint data centre which is powered by 100% renewable energy. Granted, Iceland is aided by the fact that temperatures in its data centres don’t reach the highs of those in warmer climes, which makes them easier – and more efficient – to cool, but still, it’s no mean feat.

The article doesn’t mention whether the data centre meets all of the requirements set out by SearchDataCenter. According to SearchDataCenter it takes more than renewable energy to make a data centre properly green (or carbon neutral). For example:

  • The building should be built according to green construction principles – and that means with sustainability in mind and with eco-friendly materials that are sourced in eco-friendly ways.
  • It means that the landscaping has to be sustainable.
  • Pretty much everything used on site must be recyclable – no polystyrene cups for coffee or water, and no bottled water, for that matter.
  • Company vehicles should be electric or hybrid, employees should have public transport options and should be encouraged to cycle to work, and international meetings should be held via VoIP conferencing.

There is no doubt about it, data centres are adopting more sustainable and environmentally-friendly technologies – and that is good news. But there is also no doubt that saving the planet isn’t the primary motivating factor – and that is also ok. That’s because, in the end, consumers benefit from a cleaner planet, as well as reduced costs – and that is more than good, it’s brilliant.