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Step Into The Future

Internet search-engine company Ask Jeeves Inc. is looking at a major data-center redesign in the next few years. The company, which IAC/InterActiveCorp recently revealed plans to acquire, operates almost a dozen data centers ranging from 25,000 to 100,000 square feet, altogether housing about 10,000 servers. Based on current and projected growth rates, the company's data-center footprint over the next five to seven years could expand by a factor of 10 and require an additional 50,000 to 75,000 servers. "Trying to leverage tens of thousands of servers in a fabric is only going to increase heat concerns," says Dayne Sampson, VP of information technology. "The ramifications of having to cool this sort of density have a number of implications, particularly cost."

Having to cool a big data center has many implications, especially cost, says Sampson, Ask Jeeves' VP of IT. -- Photo by James Newbury

Having to cool a big data center has many implications, especially cost, says Sampson, Ask Jeeves' VP of IT.

Each year, $20.6 billion is spent on the electrical mechanical infrastructure that supports IT in the United States, according to a new report, "The Data Center Of The Future: What Is Shaping It?" from InterUnity Group. Its survey of 161 data-center professionals, conducted in conjunction with AFCOM, a leading association for the industry, shows that Ask Jeeves isn't the only company facing potentially expensive change in the face of new computing technologies and that heat is just one area of growing concern. Nearly 60% of those surveyed believe new equipment is being acquired

without adequate concern for power or cooling requirements. But businesses also are looking to boost reliability and security as they prepare for major upgrades to their data centers, which about half the com- panies in the survey believe will take place within the next three years.

The changes afoot aren't for the faint of heart. "It's actually a very scary proposition to think about," says Sampson, who serves as both IT director and data-center manager. Improving operational efficiencies, he says, is going to require a "paradigm shift in the way we cool equipment."

In addition to the technology concerns, some companies also will require a shift in the way their data-center managers, who traditionally have operated under the auspices of the facilities department, interact with CIOs and other high-level IT executives over evolving infrastructure plans. At a growing number of companies, the data-center manager is part of the IT department, reporting to the director of IT or the CIO. Still, three-quarters of respondents to InterUnity's survey say they're concerned about a lack of involvement in the planning and procurement of new equipment. While most respondents believe their data centers are more reliable and better protected than three years ago, half still have big concerns about reliability, in large part because of the increased need for power and cooling in a world of power-dense servers and switches, and tightly packed cluster and grid environments.

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