IT Crunch Factor Has BiteBy Eric Lundquist | Posted 2007-03-22 Email Print
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Opinion: Data centers, hiring and Web capacity will feel the squeeze.
A lot of technology stories use the word "crunch." Usually the crunch is a "coming crunch," as in an expected shortage of IT workers, a financing crunch, or a crunch between user expectations (such as video and television on the Web) and the network's ability to actually deliver the service.
It seems there is a crunchiness quotient to many news stories. The bigger the potential crunch, the more play the story gets on the Web, and the more viewers want to know about the crunch. I suppose that's why one of the biggest crunch storiesthe possibility of some errant asteroid crunching into our fair planetgets so much play. In any case, here are three crunch scenarios that don't get quite so much play but that I think are certainly in the offing for IT.
First is the coming crunch in data centers. The current state of data centers located in office buildings and requiring continuous cooling and frequent power upgrades will be crunched by surging demand for electricity and ever-more heat generated by blade servers, storage networks and communication devices. It would be nice to think that the current "green" trend among component and computer vendors will mean that products arrive in the nick of time to head off the data center crunch, but that will just not happen. Power requirements for computing will continue to increase, user demand for electricity will outpace supply, and the ability to reconstruct and reconfigure that old data center will be exhausted by physical system requirements that simply cannot be met through rebuilding. Very few companies will be able to take the Google or Microsoft approach and build massive new data centers near power suppliers.
Crunches are not necessarily disasters, however. Sometimes, a crunch is required to spur innovation and spending that might other-wise have sat on the back burner. The way out of the data center crunch will involve a rethinking of the physical space where data centers are built and located; a far deeper ability to align capacity with demand; and a new category of IT professional who, rather than be seen as a data center caretaker, has a full seat at the company's strategy table. Such an IT pro in this new era of digitally oriented companies can help ensure that systems are always available and expandable and not cost companies more to operate than they generate in income.
Which gets me to the second crunch: the need for new applications and systems versus the pool of people who will fulfill that need. I recently spent a week in Germany at the annual CeBIT technology fair. After years of lackluster employment, Germany and much of Europe are seeing an upturn in hiring. The biggest problem with filling those newly created slots is finding trained technology workers. If this sounds familiar, it is much like the situation in the United States, where older workers are retiring, college students who might have gone into technology are looking elsewhere as stories about outsourcing and lack of excitement dampen technology aspirations, and an emphasis on specialization has led to fewer technologists who can design "big picture" systems for companies. This crunch will stifle growth and won't be resolved easily.
The third crunch soon to be upon us is a capacity crunch, as video and multimedia on the Internet become ubiquitous. Technology such as multicasting, the availability of movies and television shows on the Web, and a new generation of Web users who expect all their videos to be Web-enabled will combine to require a capacity that simply isn't there right now. Could this crunch be the real reason Google is busy building data centers and capacity at a multibillion-dollar pace? Will this crunch be fought in the construction trenches of vendors trying to build data centers and install fiber cable that they will offer to customers at a premium rate? Will the victor in this crunch be the one with the capacity to meet the demands of multimedia and video users? It sure looks that way.
Editorial Director Eric Lundquist can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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