Wyatt Kash | Good ideas converge

Editor's desk'commentary

When people talk of convergence in technology, they're usually referring to the digital integration of voice, video and data.

But another convergence is taking place ' a confluence of forces in which the financial pressures and security concerns driving data center consolidation are intersecting with the demand for green computing and emerging virtualization capabilities.

New data centers in development for the House, scheduled to be online by the end of the year, are representative of how those forces are converging.

As with many aging data centers, the facility that provides computing services to House members faced growing constraints.

Cobbled together in a 70-year-old building and providing a dedicated server to each member and committee, the House data center was outgrowing its space and, more crucially, the building's power supply limit ' even though those servers were using as little as 3 percent of their CPU capacity.

The 2001 terrorist attacks and the anthrax scares that followed, meanwhile, also made it clear that Congress needed a data center and backup capabilities that could not only survive a disaster but also securely support its members in far-flung locations.

Typically, the need for added space, more power or greater security would have led to incremental fixes. But the economic and social appeal of green computing ' and the increasing ability to manage virtual servers within physical servers ' proved to be potent catalysts in the House's efforts to recast its data centers.

The new test environment, for instance, will replace 196 server appliances with an architecture that will require just 20 stateless blade servers, making use of quad processors and a diskless storage system.

As computing demands rise or fall, administrators can add or shut down virtual servers.

Moreover, the new systems will operate in an environment where temperature sensors and controls can manage the flow of cool air.

In addition to savings on hardware and energy costs, server consolidation and virtualization are also saving costs by reducing the number of required monitors, data communication devices, KVM switches, and associated licensing and maintenance fees. Building space costs are also lowered.

Individually, green computing and virtualization are notable technology developments.

But their combination ' and timing ' are contributing to a tipping point in which the push to consolidate data centers is shifting toward a new, more advanced generation of efficient data centers.

About the Author

Wyatt Kash served as chief editor of GCN (October 2004 to August 2010) and also of Defense Systems (January 2009 to August 2010). He currently serves as Content Director and Editor at Large of 1105 Media.

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