This month’s issue contains stories that seem to illustrate two directions that IT may take, with big implications for data centers. In our cover story, freelancer Jack Roberts traces Google’s efforts to meet its IT needs from beginning in small data centers to renting space to building its own facilities, all while struggling to meet costs by exerting maximum control over its computing spaces. Not everyone has the sophistication to match Google’s efforts. Still Google is widely expected to continue building new data centers to meet expected demand for Google Apps. Apple, also, has announced a huge new data center. It has been widely speculated that Apple needs this data center to meet demand for its own cloud services. Plans for streaming media services might also cause Apple to make such a large investment. These examples suggest that firms will continue to build self-owned and operated data centers. Apple and Google may not be he best examples, as they may both emerge as public cloud providers. Still government, health, and financial firms and agencies cannot expect to participate in large public clouds until concerns about security and cost are resolved, so they can also be expected to continue building data centers.

On the other hand, features in this issue about NetRiver’s new data center and by Digital Realty’s Chris Collins about controlling data center costs suggest that many IT departments will take a different approach: outsourcing. The constant announcements of new data centers from colo and managed service outfits suggest that new construction continues in this arena. See our news section (p. 54) for a series of such announcements plus a information about a CommScope study that support this view.

The pace of new announcements from these sectors suggests that the economic slowdown never did reach the data center world. Sales figures about blade servers suggest continued resilience. At the very least, these sales figures and most other research I have seen suggest that data center owners continue to invest in IT and infrastructure, including data centers.

Perhaps it is a sign of the times. After all, the way to save money in a tough economy is to become more efficient. Taking on significant new lines of business requires more investment. Meeting government mandates means building more secure infrastructure. Downsizing, even if just to calculate savings, requires compute power.

If you doubt this, continue that lack of compute power led to problems within the recently concluded “Cash for Clunkers” program. Nationwide, auto dealers complained about downtime on websites built to expedite transactions within this program. Deals could not easily be entered into the system, and payments not easily disbursed.

The program is closed as of now, but I suspect that a hastily built IT operation contributed mightily to program snafus.

Either way, data center investment will have to continue, even as industry continues to experiment with IT models; these systems are just so central to our current and future worlds to be allowed to stagnate.

Kevin Heslin