The AFCOM association recently revealed the results of a survey of 436 data center sites that showed the following trends: Cyber terrorism is an increasing concern, mainframe deployment is declining, storage deployment is increasing, and “green” technologies are definitely happening.
AFCOM found that there is a shift in data centers away from mainframe computers and toward other types of servers. That makes total sense as virtualization is the mantra of the day for those companies that are interested in optimizing their power by having several operating systems function within just one server. Data processing and storage is done within one server as opposed to a traditional system where the network is distributed in an elaborate design comprising of several servers and workstations all attached to their own separate hardware components. Similar to a virtual environment, all the physical resources such as additional servers, PCs, storage, hard drives, processors, and mother boards are totally eliminated. That way, not only are we saving big time in hardware investment (good for the planet!), we are also avoiding excess maintenance costs. That’s a big thumbs up!
The “not so thumbs up “ news is that even though 60.9 percent of data centers worldwide officially recognize cyber terrorism as a real threat, only about one-third of respondents included cyber terrorism in their disaster-recovery plans. The survey goes on to note that currently only about one of every four data centers addresses cyber terrorism, and one in five has procedures in place to prevent an attack. That means the remaining four out of five data centers are left dangerously vulnerable to sophisticated malwares and viruses.
The risk of cyber attacks becomes more critical as several data centers expect massive expansion due to dramatic increase in storage demands and aggressive business plans in the next five years. The AFCOM study finds that 22.0 percent will utilize a colocation center to meet their increased space requirements and 13.8 percent will use managed Hosting services. Companies will also rely more and more on cloud computing services to meet their increasing computing needs that cannot be totally met with onsite especially if they are cash strapped.
Cloud computing – cutting costs and energy
Enterprises are increasingly embracing cloud technology as a part of their initiative to cut costs and energy. How does it work? Computational power and storage borrowed from a third party decreases the power load on the home front. You pay for what you use and waste fewer resources in the bargain. You eliminate redundant power, redundant servers, spare capacity, fail-over processes, backup servers etc and equipment never gets outdated. Services on the host side, run on shared infrastructure at high utilization as not all users will be accessing service at the same time which means there is further potential for power savings.
While some argue that cloud computing just shifts the energy consumption from the data centers to the hosts’ side, even with all the additional overhead costs and single computer power usage (on the host side) , there is a considerable decrease in net power as you take other systems offline and pay a whole lot less for cooling.
Highly specialized energy saving environments that are carefully cultivated by big players like Amazon and Microsoft are likely to waste considerably less energy than the clients who seek their cloud services.
But the big elephant in the room when it comes to cloud computing has always been security concerns as you let go of sensitive client data over an open network. Remote computing increases the risk of breaches. This was recently brought to the forefront with Google’s well documented case when a hacker got hold of confidential Twitter documents after breaking into an employee’s e-mail account. Certainly Google has been exceptional in embracing green computing and proclaims to run the most energy-efficient data centers in the world. But are we willing to ease up on the security of confidential data to get our carbon limits under control?
Organizations such as the Cloud Security Alliance, comprising of industry leaders, global associations and security experts, have published guidance to come up with secure cloud computing practices and have released guidelines that cover 15 security domains, ranging from computing architecture to virtualization for organizations. Just like any other emerging technology, there are certain matters that require meticulous ironing out. I’m optimistic that we will be able to make cloud work as we cannot ignore the business benefits that it brings us (lots of cash savings!) while keeping our individual and collective carbon limits under check.
Dilip Tinnelvelly is VP of Technology and Product Management at ChannelVission Inc., a global business development company specializing in channel sales & marketing services for the information technology industry.