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There’s a battle of wills going on within most customers these days that is creating an unusual opportunity for solution providers to play the mediator. Opportunities to wear the white hat don’t come along all that often, but even the warring camps inside the customer base would generally agree that this argument is unproductive for all concerned so that means both sides may be looking for a little diplomatic assistance.

The core argument between the warring camps is the battle for power between the IT departments and the facilities groups. And no, we’re not talking about power as in influence but rather power as in electricity.

Data centers have become fairly dynamic environments that require IT people to dynamically shift application loads across multiple servers. The advent of blade servers and virtualization software is making it easier to allocate hardware resources on demand.

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But the problem that many IT people are facing is that blade servers have vastly different energy and cooling requirements and they don’t have control over how much electricity is allocated to the data center or in many cases even the authority to purchase uninterruptible power supplies for their servers.

The power over the plug and all other things electrical resides with the facilities department that gets greatly concerned about the blowing circuits and rising prices of energy. In many instances the people that control the power don’t even work for the company that owns the servers. Instead, they work for some third-party facilities manager or the building owner. This often then leads to situations where customers move to deploy blade servers only to discover that their IT strategy is being held hostage by people who wear jumpsuits and utility belts.

As part of an effort to provide some relief for IT people, Eaton Powerware has launched a BladeUPS offering that allows IT organization to stack as many as six UPSes in a blade server rack as part of an effort to minimize their dependency on the facilities department, but you still have to work with the facilities departments to get the power turned on in the first place.

All this bickering is creating major opportunities for solution providers such as North American Access Technologies in Hawthorne, N.Y., where people like Julius Neudorfer, director of network services, are one of the few people in the business that are conversant in both IT issues such as server and network management and facilities issues such as power and cooling.

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In fact, you might consider NAAT to be the forerunner of a trend where solution providers that specialize in IT issues are going to soon find themselves partnering and merging with companies that specialize in energy solutions that are typically purchased by the facilities departments. That, of course, will only reflect what is happening within the customer base as senior IT executives such as the CIO continue to gain dominion over facilities departments.

None of this is new for people like Neudorfer that have been around the block a few times, but for the most part the industry as a whole has lost touch with data center design skills as the customers moved to embrace Intel servers. But now we want to consolidate those servers into blade servers that are minicomputers by any other name. That means that there’s now a desperate need in the market place for people who understand data center design, energy costs and systems management. And in terms of downstream revenue, that combination of requirements has the potential to make the hardware business a very attractive place to be once again.