Server sprawl or data center sprawl?

Is there something bigger than server sprawl, yes there is and it is called data center sprawl. Never heard about it? Read further.

In the past decade, the number of data centers operated by the U.S. government has skyrocketed from 432 to more than 1,200 says Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra. Last Wednesday, April 7, the Brookings Institution at Washington D.C. hosted a policy forum that examines the economic benefits of cloud computing for local, state, and federal government. Speaking at this meeting Kundra also stated that “Now, when you think about these data centers, one of the most troubling aspects about the data centers is that in a lot of these cases, we’re finding that server utilization is actually around seven percent, that’s unacceptable when you think about all the resources that we’ve invested. And the other thing we’re finding is that in terms of energy consumption, that the trajectory, it’s a one-way street where we continue to consume more and more energy, and these data centers tend to be energy hogs, and we need to find a fundamentally different strategy as we think about bending this curve as far as data center growth is concerned.”

Looks like that for some mysterious reason everyone wants to have his own data center. Although there was an enormous growth of data centers, 93% of server capacity in those data centers is not used! Think about all those servers running the magic number of 8760 hours a year and effectively using only 613 hours a year. What an enormous waste of processing capacity and spilling of energy (not only the energy of useless running servers but also the energy to run the site infrastructure of all these data centers).

According the Brookings Institution paper, “Saving Money through Cloud Computing,” cost savings estimates vary greatly. But Brookings estimates that agencies could save between 25 percent to 50 percent of information technology infrastructure costs by moving in-house servers to the cloud. Kundra is on the same line of reasoning by stating “We’ve already begun our shift to cloud computing. We started with a strategy on looking at cloud first policy in terms of figuring out where do we move towards cloud computing in terms of thinking about areas where we’re not compromising national security in any way or the privacy of the American people.”

Hopefully it is not only an economic rationalization statement but also an environmental/energy statement that is made. Whatever this statement will bring the discussion about cloud computing to another level and also give an enormous boost to cloud computing development, be it the private enterprise/government cloud or the “public” commercial cloud. For which players will benefit of this potential U.S government’s data center consolidation see the Datacenterknowledge blog.

Interesting question is if the European Union will follow in this vision about shifting large numbers of governmental applications from in-house data centers to cloud computing platforms.

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