I met with Paul-Francois Cattier, VP Datacenters, Schneider Electric whilst at Data Centres Europe 2013 in Nice. I asked him how companies could start to address designing their data centers to meet the business requirements, rather than the technology requirements of IT.
“There have been many changes in the way that IT was used throughout the 80’s, 90’s and 2000 – up to today when we’re using virtualization and the Cloud,” he said. “But one of the main changes in the IT load is that before the industry moved towards higher density compute loads, the servers and the data center environment were very stable and very predictable.”
“The data center, in fact, was like a five-point economic plan. Everything was very certain, we make some assumptions and we start to build a picture of the future based upon these, build in some multipliers and so-on. It’s like predicting the future, but doing so using historic events which didn’t really change at all going forward. It was easy.
“But when it comes to Cloud computing, there is a big versatility in the IT load. It totally changes the nature of the data center. What this brings with it is total uncertainty. Then you have another uncertainty caused by technology. Apart from virtualization and cloud computing, most of the time you build data centers for twenty years, but in that twenty years there could be five or six new generations of IT equipment.
“Most of these innovations have not been invented or even hinted at yet. It’s very hard therefore to predict! On top of that, we have businesses which have to be far more agile and adaptable than ever before in order to survive. They need to be flexible and have the capability to react quickly to changing business and economic environments.
“Imagine that 6 years ago Facebook didn’t even exist. Today we might be witnessing the birth of a new killer application which will replace Facebook. But right now, we all believe that Facebook will last forever! So we have a very fast changing environment, on the technology side, on the nature of the IT load, on the business environment of the customer.
“But what this collectively causes is a huge uncertainty; about what needs to be designed as a data center, for what business reason, to host what type of technology and what kind of IT load? It could be a load like Facebook which scales up like crazy, suddenly eclipsed by another very different type ofapplication.
“So, how do you manage this type of uncertainty? This is the deal for data center designers and really there is a way to architect, to plan your data center in a way that even if you don’t know what the future holds, you know that you have built agile and flexible infrastructure which can embrace future trends that are not yet known; future technologies that are not yet invented. But your data center will be adaptive to this.
“This comes building in the intelligence of scalability and modularity into your design so that you will be able to manage all these uncertainties!”