Dark and Green
There is a dark side to virtualization, however. While it improves the utilization of server compute horsepower, it negatively impacts power and cooling.
"The adoption of virtualization by data center professionals has a potentially negative effect on the capability of existing power and cooling systems," said Carl Cottuli, vice president of the Data Center Science Center at American Power Conversion (APC; West Kingston, R.I.). "A virtualized data center needs to be able to support the dynamic heat loads on demand."
This is backed by findings from the GCG survey. According to Olds, 55 percent of respondents said power and floor space concerns heavily influence their server purchases. Data center floor space seems to be the most critical issue of all 42 percent of respondents are rapidly running out. Meanwhile, 30 percent report that they are rapidly running out of electrical capacity, and nearly one-third said that cooling capacity has become a major concern. These concerns show no sign of abating, as 65 percent agreed that these considerations will become much more important in the future.
"We were a bit surprised by the large number of customers who said they are hitting the wall on electrical and cooling capacity and even more surprised to see that more than 40 percent of them are running out of data center space," said Olds. "Vendors are pushing hard to bring more efficient servers to market or to at least position their current offerings as 'greener' than the other guys."
Power and cooling efficiency, though, are only one aspect of a much larger trend. While it was obviously present in 2007, expect the greening of the data center to become a dominant theme in 2008.
"I would expect the most dominant trend next year for the data center industry will be to drive adoption of green efficient methodologies into new and existing facilities," said Cottuli.
This trend has server OEMs scrambling to gain the advantage. Although each has released power, cooling and greening initiatives, it is still the early days yet, and no one has the clear advantage. The GCG survey, however, revealed that HP (Palo Alto, Calif.) and IBM are a little ahead of competitors in terms of how well their systems used energy and data center floor space. But Olds said he doesn't see this as a definitive sign that these vendors will win the green wars.
"Although either HP or IBM won every category, there was still a large number (30 percent to 40 percent) of respondents who couldn't pick a clear leader in any category," said Olds. "This tells me that there is still a lot of room for any of these four major vendors to carve out a 'we're the greenest' position in the market. However, they'll need to develop solid technology and measurement methodologies in order to rise above the industry noise surrounding these topics."