by Michael Bullock

The Future Data Center: Three Ways to Advance Your Career

Apr 06, 20095 mins
Data Center

With all the bad news about the economy, rising unemployment, corruption in high places and mind-boggling billion dollar bailouts, wouldn’t it be great to read about something positive once in a while? Taking the direct approach, I Googled “positive news” and was surprised to see how many websites are dedicated to it. Unfortunately, they’re not all that meaty and they certainly don’t target IT and the data center, which is why we’re all here, right?

So I tuned into Len Eckhaus (founder of AFCOM and board member of the Data Center Institute) and his recently updated “Five Bold Predictions for the Data Center Industry that will Change Your Future” (originally published in 2006).

Here’s a quick summary:

  • Original: By 2015, the talent pool of qualified senior level technical and management data center professionals will shrink by 45%.

    Update: Eckhaus still sees a shortage coming.
  • Original: By 2010, more than half of all data centers will have to relocate to new facilities or outsource some applications.

    Update: He has revised this prediction downward, but not by a specific amount and probably because most organization that were planning in 2006 to move by 2010 are already deep into the process, shrinking the pool a bit.
  • Original: Over the next five years power failures and limits on power availability will halt data center operations at more than 90% of all companies.

    Update: No change. Clearly, this is a high priority concern.
  • Original: By 2010, nearly 70% of all data centers will utilize some form of grid computing or other virtual processing.

    Update: This is happening faster than Eckhaus originally anticipated. He now says that 85% of all data centers are planning some form of virtual processing.
  • Original: Within the next five years, one out of every four data centers will experience a business disruption serious enough to affect the entire company’s ability to continue business as usual.

    Update: Actually, Ekhaus says that things are even worse than that due to the widespread budget cuts enforced by the economic crisis and the consequent delay in making upgrades to data center infrastructure, hardware, software, and support systems.

Positive news? That’s positive news? You may be thinking, “Has Mike lost his mind? This all sounds like horrible news!”

Well, everything comes down to one’s perspective, right? If our starting point is the world of 2006, which we viewed through rose-tinted lenses, of course everything after that looks and sounds like bad news. So now that we’ve removed the glasses (or had them smashed for us), I’ve decided to take a fresh look and find the realistic upside for IT and for your career.

Accordingly, here are three predictions you can use to leverage Eckhaus’ somewhat dire analysis to your advantage:

1. Highly motivated to improve productivity and quality while delivering greater business value, the IT industry will show remarkable adaptability and resilience over the next five years. IT organizations, their suppliers, employees and external partners will all work together like never before to get the most out of IT budgets, technology and data center resources. This will usher in an age of pragmatism, eliminating the waste and inefficiency that all too often characterized corporate IT. Employees, vendors and VARs who do not adapt will be replaced by more competent alternatives. (See “Avoid the Hidden Cost of Bias and Preference in IT”). The upside for you is that the faster you embrace the concept of cooperation, collaboration, and efficient resource usage, the more valuable you will become to your current or future employer.

2. Driven by more efficient software, hardware, and facilities infrastructure “sustainable IT” will become much more than a catch phrase in the next decade. In the data center market, this means Tier IV (2N+1 redundancy) will be recognized widely as inefficient and wasteful while Tier III (concurrently maintainable) will be seen as perfectly adequate, not to mention much more cost effective. By focusing on efficiency and sustainability in IT operations, many companies will be able to defer costly consolidations and relocations. For those organizations that have no alternative but to move soon, there’s a new generation of colocation data centers coming online (like the new Internap facility near Boston) that were built from the ground up with a green and sustainable approach.

3. I predict that 98% of organizations that fail to plan ahead will be blindsided by power availability or cost issues over the next five years (one in 50 may get lucky). This is the consequence of the combined effect of the growth of information and power consumption, and the constraints imposed by power availability and inefficiency. Since half the power in a typical data center goes toward support systems (power conversion and cooling), those systems act as a perpetual (and unnecessary) tax on your operations. Luckily, technologies already exist that can help: ultrasonic humidification, variable frequency drives, high efficiency transformers and Energy Star servers, just to name a few. So if you want to make a good career decision, now is the time to begin implementing power saving initiatives that have fast paybacks and can help you avoid a power crisis in the future. Or, like I said, maybe you’ll get lucky. (Me, I don’t advise banking on luck to see you and your company through to the turnaround.)

I hope this gives you some ideas on how you can prioritize your future and develop greater value for your employer. If this advice comes too late for your present job situation, here are some other career links you may find useful: “5 tips to get on a recruiter’s good side,” “how not to piss off a recruiter,” and “calculating the risk you’ll lose your job.”

As always, thank you for sending comments, tips and topic suggestions to me at


Michael Bullock is the founder and CEO of Transitional Data Services (TDS), a consulting firm helping clients implement energy saving green data center solutions, data center relocations, web based enterprise applications and 24/7 technical operations.