Gartner's Top 10 disruptive data-center technologies

Pod-like data center construction and the evolution of blade servers make Gartner's Top 10 list

A new computing fabric to replace today's blade servers and a "pod" approach to building data centers are two of the most disruptive technologies that will affect the enterprise data center in the next few years, Gartner said at its annual data center conference Wednesday.

Data centers increasingly will be built in separate zones or pods, rather than as one monolithic structure, Gartner analyst Carl Claunch said in a presentation about the Top 10 disruptive technologies affecting the data center.

Those zones or pods will be built in a fashion similar to the modular data centers sold in large shipping containers equipped with their own cooling systems. But data center pods don't have to be built within actual containers. The distinguishing features are that zones are built with different densities, reducing initial costs, and each pod or zone is self-contained with its own power feeds and cooling, Claunch says.

Cooling costs are minimized because chillers are closer to heat sources; and there is additional flexibility because a pod can be upgraded or repaired without necessitating downtime in other zones, Claunch said.

"Modularization is a good thing. It gives you the ability to refresh continuously and have higher uptime," Claunch said.

By not treating a data center as a homogenous whole, it is easier to separate equipment into high, medium and low heat densities, and devote expensive cooling only to the areas that really need it, Claunch added.

The move to pods and zones is among what Gartner calls the most disruptive technologies affecting the data center. In no particular order, these technologies are storage virtualization; cloud computing; new server architectures; PC virtualization; enterprise mashups; specialized systems (aka hardware appliances); social software and social networking; unified communications; zones and pods; and green IT.

Many of these technologies have been covered by Gartner in previous lists (including "Gartner's Top 10 strategic technologies for 2008" and "10 strategic technologies for 2009"). Enterprises won't have to wait long to take advantage of these technologies: All these trends are beginning to happen now or will do so within the next few years, Claunch said.

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