How Cloud Computing Is Forcing IT Evolution

To say cloud computing is having a dramatic effect on IT is an understatement. The capability and agility of the cloud is forcing a rapid evolution. Just as in living ecosystems, IT professionals who fail to adapt will, inevitably, dwindle into extinction.

By Bernard Golden
Wed, February 29, 2012

CIO — I had the privilege of chairing the infrastructure track at last week's Cloud Connect conference. Three of the presentations were particularly interesting, offering a good perspective on just how dramatic an effect cloud computing is having on IT. Summed up, the capability and agility of cloud computing is forcing an extremely rapid evolution.

In a sense, these effects are akin to what would happen to an established living ecosystem were significant change to occur within. One could expect to see existing species be stressed by the development of new characteristics in the ecosystem, forcing them to adapt rapidly to survive. Those that fail to adapt will, inevitably, dwindle into extinction.

Cloud Allows for Data Center Scale

Two of the presentations at the Cloud Connect conference addressed how organizations are transforming data centers as a result of the need for scale and density. Ron Vokoun, a construction executive with Mortenson Construction, a company that builds data centers, began by noting that the projects his firm is taking on are quickly shifting toward larger data centers. Mortenson is seeing small and medium-size enterprises leaving the business of owning and operating data centers, preferring to leverage collocated and cloud environments, leaving the responsibility for managing the facility to some other entity. The typical project size his firm sees has doubled or quadrupled, with 20,000 square feet the typical minimum.

Associated with this shift are objectives only available to more sophisticated operators, such as high energy efficiency, raised operating temperatures, data center siting to take advantage of cool climates, and the use of modularization/containerization. Each of these requires a level of sophistication on the part of the operator well beyond what a typical enterprise can bring to bear. Combing each of the elements that Vokoun outlined achieves a significant cost advantage compared to typical corporate data centers.

The bottom line is that Mortenson is seeing an increasing tendency for end user organizations to outsource their computing infrastructure to specialized providers who obtain significant advantages compared to traditional corporate environments.

While Vokoun gave a general perspective on data center trends, Mark Thiele, executive vice president of data center technology with Switch spole more specifically about what he sees working for one of the new mega-data center operators. Switch is best known for operating a giant data center outside of Las Vegas called the SuperNAP.

Switch is an exemplar of the new breed of data center operator. Its facility is enormous: 400,000 square feet today, with plans to expand to more than 2 million square feet. The facility draws 100 megawatts of power, delivered to cabinets at a density of 1,500 watts per square foot. It has high levels of security and touts itself as a host and interconnector of clouds -- in other words, it is so large that different cloud providers locate their operations inside of Switch, the better to gain economic efficiency and, just as important, to ease cross-cloud connectivity with other providers.

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