2009 may be remembered as a year when one of the biggest players on the server front was gobbled up and a new, powerful entrant emerged. It’s a year when the cloud cast its shadow over the industry and when green ideas began resulting in real savings for companies. So what were the top data center stories of 2009? Here are the Data Center Exchange’s picks:

1. Oracle Looks To Buy Sun Microsystems. The deal is still being wrapped up, but 2009 may long be remembered as the year when Sun Microsystems, a fixture in data center operations, was acquired by database giant Oracle. Oracle agreed to buy – many will say rescue – Sun after negotiations with IBM broke down. The $7.4 billion deal was being held up by European Union anti-trust regulators over concerns about whether Oracle would continue to support the MySQL database. However, after Oracle made pledges in December to continue to support the open source database, the EU appeared to be leaning in favor of giving the purchase its approval.

2. Cisco Enters the Server Market. In April, networking giant Cisco announced it was getting into the computer server business, reshaping the data center hardware market. Cisco’s Unified Computing System (UCS) offering, essentially a server-networking-storage bundle, set off a series of counter-moves by such former partners as IBM, HP, and Dell.

3. Cloud Computing Comes to the Data Center. On one hand, cloud computing was more hype than substance in 2009. But this was definitely the year when companies laid the groundwork for 2010 and beyond. Consider IBM, which opened a string of data centers to support cloud computing in 2009 and which also established a cloud computing lab in Hong Kong.

4. EMC Wins Battle for Data Domain. Storage giant EMC won a hotly contested battled against NetApp for data duplication specialist Data Domain in July. Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC has created a new product division within its storage business based on acquired technology from Data Domain, which will focus on the development and delivery of next-generation disk-based backup, recovery and archive offerings.

5. The Economic Downturn. Data center managers were faced with the difficult challenge in 2009 of trying to wring costs out of their budgets, while at the same time meeting ever-growing demands from their business users. The year started off with AFCOM, the industry group for data center professionals, reporting that more than one-third of data center managers had been asked to cut their budgets for 2009. The picture didn’t get much better through the year, but in the fourth quarter of 2009, most analysts had determined budgets had stabilized and were looking slightly positive for 2010.

6. Greener Pastures in the Data Center. The greening of the data center is not a new story for 2009, but hardware manufacturers and data center operators continued to make progress in such areas as liquid cooling systems, hot aisle/cold aisle air flow systems, and virtualization technologies. The gains deserve to be applauded, but more resources will need to be dedicated to the challenge of reducing data center power consumption. Consider that a typical data center uses up to 30 times more energy than a typical office building, and total data center energy consumption is doubling every five years.

7. Turning Up the Heat in Data Centers. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (AHRAE) passed a recommendation for the industry in January, when expanded its data center temperature and humidity ranges. The decision meant servers could now be operated safely with air inlet temperatures up to 80.6 degrees Fahrenheit (versus 77 degrees previously). The decision meant big savings for data center operators on cooling costs and paved the way for the implementation of new cooling technologies.

8. Serving Up Social Networking. Social networking certainly took center stage in 2009, and no company had a bigger following than Facebook. The company revealed this fall that membership had soared beyond 300 million users, and in order to support its operations Facebook had created an infrastructure of more than 30,000 servers. While 30,000 servers doesn’t make Facebook the biggest data center operator, it does place it in the big leagues. And consider that about 20,000 of those servers were added since early 2008.

9. Cloud Glitches Raise Reliability Concerns. Cloud computing was an important story for 2009 not only because of the gains made in laying the infrastructure (see item 3), but also because of several high-profile outages. Amazon’s EC2 service suffered several outages during the year, and in February about 113 million users of Google’s Gmail service were frustrated by an outage. While the outages at Amazon, Google and several other cloud providers, were usually short lived, they did raise concerns about the reliability of the cloud.

10. IBM Draws Ire of Antitrust Regulators. In October, it was revealed the Justice Department had launched a preliminary investigation into whether IBM was abusing its monopoly position in the mainframe market. The investigation was launched after a complaint was filed by the Computer and Communications Industry Association trade group, which alleged IBM had stifled competition in the mainframe market. It also contended that IBM had blocked efforts by competitors and potential partners to license IBM’s mainframe software.




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