Big Getting Bigger, Uptime Data Center Survey Finds

The big are getting bigger: that’s the conclusion of preliminary data collection by the Uptime Institute, which found that the largest data centers are receiving the largest budget increases.

In a webinar that covered the “State of the Data Center,” Matt Stansberry, program director of the Uptime Institute, said that data center providers are bifurcating into two tiers: one full of big-spending elites, and everybody else.

The Uptime survey is probably best viewed alongside a similar survey performed earlier this month by Campos Research and Digital Realty. The Campos/Digital Realty survey delved into PUE data, a traditional metric for data-center energy efficiency, while the Uptime survey didn’t—at least not yet. While the Uptime survey reiterated that the average PUE was 1.89 in 2011, the group’s latest PUE information will presumably see the light of day at the Uptime conference in mid-May.

What Uptime found is that the top data-center operators are spending big, but that the most spending is coming from overseas. In Latin America, 57 percent of respondents are receiving budget increases of more than 10 percent, the survey found, compared to 32 percent in North America, 27 percent in Europe, and 44 percent in Asia. Stansberry implied (but didn’t say) that the largest providers were receiving the highest increases by percentage.

The majority of data center operators (70 percent) had built or renovated a site within the last 5 years. Of organizations managing over 5,000 or more servers, 81 percent built new infrastructure. In general, the customers building the most are colos and multi-tenant data centers (85 percent growth), with 66 percent of the enterprise customers polled building new infrastructure.

“The other trend we’re seeing is that the U.S. builds in larger increments than Europe, Asia and Latin America,” Stansberry said.

For the first time, Uptime asked how much each megawatt of compute power actually cost.  Although the question didn’t take into account particular tiers of data centers or local currency, 46 percent of those polled paid less than $5 million per megawatt. For that reason, the questions were sort of a blunt instrument, Stansberry said; the trend that it does show, however, is that larger datacenter providers are willing to invest in technologies that increase cost, such as redundancy, complex designs, and efficiency features. Smaller firms don’t.

Plans to deploy modular data centers hovered at about 9 percent, with plans to build them about 8 percent—roughly the same as last year. More than half expressed no interest.

Uptime’s research also showed that data center providers better understood their cost and performance metrics, while enterprise customers did not; this has driven enterprises to outsource the work. Thirty-eight percent had installed DCIM to improve their use of infrastructure; however, 31 percent said they didn’t use it and had no plans to buy it, either.

Ninety percent of large companies track PUE. The largest companies pursue a variety of different “green IT” projects, with the most popular (72 percent) centering on airflow containment, and 68 percent using variable frequency drives on pumps and air handlers. Another 67 percent track PUE. The most significant difference between large and small data-center operators was the use of warmer inlet temperatures, Stansberry said. For large companies, a 1 pwexwnr loss of hardware may be nothing compared to the efficiency gain, he said.

The Uptime data is a good lesson for the industry; for every sparkling PUE number reported by a Facebook, Google, or Microsoft, many smaller data-center providers are taking a much more conservative approach.

Image: Uptime Institute

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