At the beginning of this year, California announced that data center overhauls in the form of consolidation would become mandatory. Other announcements followed, such as NASA’s own pullback of its initial $1.5 billion data center project that is now being reworked to incorporate consolidation.?An executive order signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarznegger kicked off the data center overhaul in California, and one of the most intriguing elements is the fast-tracked time frame the order outlines. In terms of how radical the move is, the mandate called for a 25 percent reduction in total data center square footage by July 2010 and 50 percent by July 2011.

Though this is just one example, it points to the massive data center market. In California alone, there are 400 data centers/server rooms supporting various agencies. As it stands, they encompass more than 400,000 square feet, and more than 9,500 physical servers are housed within. To abide by the consolidation plan, about 100,000 square feet needed to be essentially eliminated by July and another 100,000 a year later.

Initially looking at such large consolidation numbers makes it seem, from a contractor’s standpoint, as though data center work is subsiding. That is not the case. In fact, data centers themselves are becoming more efficient and leaner. Virtualization technology has prompted a lot of this consolidation, and since it has become increasingly mainstream, it is serving as a catalyst to get other aspects of data centers operating in a more budget-friendly manner.

While there may be fewer new projects on the horizon as users learn to make data centers more efficient and more adaptable to smaller spaces, there will be a surge in new data center projects in the near future as they are consolidated.

Consolidation?The main point of these data center consolidation projects is to occupy less space in order to reduce operating costs for heating, cooling and power. However, data centers won’t cease to exist, and the reduced ones must be moved somewhere, perhaps simply to a smaller facility. This is relevant to contractors because most of the moves are going to require cabling and wiring to get the new facilities running to support operations. Very rarely, as all contractors know, do vacant buildings exist with enough cabling for optimal performance.

Even in instances where the facility may be downsized, there will still be a series of moves, adds and changes involved. Due to technologies, such as virtualization and SSD storage, you can do a lot more with a lot less physical equipment than just a few short years ago.

The server virtualization craze, which started about 2005, is still going strong. It has shown how software--driven technology can make better use of physical equipment. Server virtualization is a way to place a layer of software on a server and make that one physical server act and operate as if it were more than 20, while only needing enough power for one physical machine.

Technology continues to shape and affect contractors in unexpected ways and areas. Contractors should try to understand the trend and how to stay involved. Paying attention to high-profile government projects is a good way to get a feel for what is coming. Though government is typically behind the curve in using new technology, it does tend to set a precedent in operation; this data center consolidation movement is a good example. The commercial side—including casinos and hosptiality venues, which may need data centers to store customer information—has been slowly experimenting with consolidation but not to the extent of the government, which is promising such rapid and noticeable change.

Contractors need to take notice of these peripheral occurrences, as they can only help with their own endeavors in the future.


STONG, a freelance writer, lives in central Pennsylvania. She can be reached at jennifer.stong@comcast.net.