Where today's datacenters have gone wrong

Afcom CEO Jill Eckhaus discusses how datacenters got so crowded and why they're finally getting the respect they deserve

Today's datacenters are downright cramped, yet forced to continue absorbing more technologies and tapping into the latest trends, all while maximizing efficiency and reducing costs. The current recession makes now the time to glance back for a historical perspective to better understand how to not only survive in this different world but also to best prepare for the future.

In advance of the association for datacenter professionals Afcom's Data Center World show taking place in Las Vegas this week, CEO Jill Eckhaus spoke with InfoWorld Editor at Large Tom Sullivan about how datacenters got where they are today, what's gone wrong, what they'd be wise to concentrate on right now, and one bright spot amid the economic uncertainties.


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Would you go so far as to call this recession and its budget cuts something of a disaster to the datacenter?

I've never really thought about that, but I don't know if I'd go that far. Afcom did a survey in 2008 about how the economy is going to impact the datacenter manager's budget. Then right after we did the survey, unfortunately the economy took a bigger dump and Wall Street took a hit. So we resurveyed those individuals in October 2008 and 49.6 percent of datacenters are seeing some sort of impact in their 2009 budget, which I thought was really interesting because it means that 51 percent of datacenters were not asked to cut their budget as of November 2008.

When you think about that, for the first time ever corporations are realizing that the datacenter is the lifeline of their organization, and if it goes down, they could stand to lose millions of dollars an hour. Of those people that were asked to cut their budget, it was by 15.2 percent. When you look at organizations that are cutting overall budgets by 20, 30, or 40 percent and laying off a lot of people, the datacenter is being hit by only 15 percent. That shows us how important the datacenter is, even today.

It sounds like if there's a bright spot in this economic darkness, it's the realization of the importance of the datacenter. You said this is the first time people are realizing this about the datacenter.

I've been in the industry for almost 18 years and it's the first time in my career I can remember the datacenter not being looked at as just a money pit. People are really taking notice, and when you look at it, datacenter managers are responsible for the entire datacenter and the integrity of the data. Now it comes down to the CEO, they have to take responsibility for anything that happens with their data, so there's been a larger focus on the datacenter.

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