What Exactly is a 'Data Center' These Days?
Insurance Experts' Forum, August 17, 2011
ReadWriteWeb just published an interesting info-graphic describing where “Big Data” resides across enterprises these days. For example, the US Library of Congress, as of April 2011, had 235 terabytes' worth of data. But per company, 15 of the top 17 industry sectors in the United States have more data, per company, than the Library of Congress.
If you're wondering where the insurance industry stands in the list, it's somewhere in the middle – with a total of 243 petabytes now being stored. The leading industry was discrete manufacturing, with 966 petabytes, and at the low end was construction, with 51 petabytes.
How is all this data being handled? Typically, lots of data calls for large data centers. The big social media providers – Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, for example – have huge megacenters the size of industrial complexes, often located near cheap hydroelectric sources in the northwestern United States.
While data volumes keep soaring, there has been a notable trend toward data center downsizing. In other words, less of a data center is needed to handle more data and applications. For example, the federal government says it plans to close up to 800 of its 2,000 data centers, employing cloud and consolidation strategies and technologies. Carriers have also been consolidating – Nationwide, for example, has been consolidating its 28 data centers down to three.
And data centers are going in all kinds of directions. In recent years, vendors have rolled out mobile data centers, rigged in trailers or refurbished shipping containers, included standardized commodity hardware and connections, and could be plugged into most corporate campuses.
Then there's the trend going in the opposite direction, with increasing compute power constantly being packed into smaller and denser chips, as well as geometrically growing storage capacity that shows no signs of abating. It’s not inconceivable that all the functions of an average data center could eventually be packed into a box the size of a desktop computer. Consider all the scientific and high-end applications that once required high-end Unix computers that now can be run on a laptop.
With cloud computing, data centers shrink even more, and could potentially be run from a handheld smartphone.
So which of these are definable as a “data center”? All of the above, of course.
Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.
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