A significant increase in server sales during the next two years will lead to a further acceleration of data center power, cooling and space problems, according to Gartner, Inc. Gartner said that users need to quantify the effects of new deployments and take action without delay.

"While server sales expected to rise the next two years, many IT administrators are already grappling with data center power, cooling and space issues of its current fleet," said Rakesh Kumar, research vice president at Gartner. "Virtualization and consolidation projects will help offset some of these issues, but with the snowball effect that these issues tend to create within an organization, users need to act quickly."

According to Gartner, the worldwide server market declined by 16.5 percent in revenue and by 16.8 percent in volume in 2009. However, analysts predict that the market will recover from 2010 onward, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.5 percent for shipments and 2.4 percent for revenue from 2010 through 2014.

Mr. Kumar explained that while servers consume only about 15 percent of the direct energy in data centers, there is a cascade effect. The more servers that exist, the more heat is generated and, therefore, the more cooling equipment is needed. Hence, if the data center power, cooling and space problems were causing such headaches in a very depressed IT market, they will become significantly worse in an expanding market.

Gartner has identified a number of actions that users need to undertake to manage these problems in 2010 and 2011, including:
  • Do not underestimate the issues. Quantify the problem. Users need to get accurate capacity-related data to quantify the impact of infrastructure expansion on the amount of data center power, cooling and available space. This involves working with facility teams to see what is available and how quickly it could be used up. It also means that the infrastructure and operations (I&O) groups need to work with the application and architecture teams to see what is being planned for the next few years and to translate those needs into energy and space metrics. Many of the consolidation and virtualization projects that started two years ago will continue to yield benefits that will offset the impact of new hardware deployments. However, in all cases, accurate modeling and quantification are key to addressing the problem in a controlled manner.
  • Use monitoring tools. Users need to start implementing energy-monitoring tools to manage and predict capacity requirements and to control operational costs. The use of monitoring tools remains low but is readily available as part of core server management tools or as separate, server-independent tools for organizations.
  • Accelerate consolidation and virtualization projects. Many of these projects were started two years ago as the IT recession started. These are multiyear activities, with benefits occurring over the life of the projects. However, the benefits often increase toward the end of the project, so users should accelerate the speed of adoption and change. This should provide extra energy capacity and floor space to offset the needs of new hardware.
  • Assess the benefits of delaying new server purchases. Many organizations will look to deploy new servers as a result of new projects over the next few years. However, Gartner urges I&O departments to fully assess the benefits and pitfalls of doing so. In some cases, it may be beneficial to delay the acquisition and use capacity that is freed up from consolidation and virtualization projects. The equation is complex, because new servers typically use less energy than older ones, and, in some cases, have greater capacity as a result of new multicore processors. They also have better energy management tools. However, there will likely be spare capacity on older machines that could also be used.
Additional information is available in the report "Data Center Power, Cooling and Space: A Worrisome Outlook for the Next Two Years" which is available on Gartner's website at http://www.gartner.com/resId=1313015.