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Disruption? Ride With It

Disruption? Ride With It

Game-changing technologies are a part of IT life. It's up to you to run with them - or get run over

New technologies can change the relationship of supplier and customer. New applications can create huge infrastructure implications. And sometimes the best way to learn how to cope with these changes is to face them squarely. To give you early warning, we queried various experts and found five technologies that have the significant potential to transform the way your IT department does business in the coming years.

Disruption 1: Multicore Processors

Leading vendors: AMD, Azul, Intel, Sun

Old thinking: One processor in every box

IT impact: New numbers in the "performance, power and cooling" equation

New computing platforms from Intel and AMD have arrived with reduced power requirements that take price and performance to new levels. On the plus side, the newer processors are more energy-efficient and can deliver more raw horsepower per watt of power, so IT departments concerned with their energy bills will be motivated to replace their older servers.

But even the most energy-efficient designs are still an issue for data centres that were constructed long ago on mainframe layouts. The trouble is that these spaces aren't able to withstand the intense heat generated by racks of densely stacked distributed processors that generate more heat per square metre when stacked in large columns than the mainframes ever did. This may mean wholesale design changes on the data centre floor. "For every watt of server power consumption, we pay twice - first for powering the server and second for the air-conditioning that cools it down," says Rene Wienholtz, CTO of Web hosting provider Strato.

Disruption 2: Server Consolidation and Virtualization

Leading vendors: EMC/VMware, Liquid Computing, Microsoft, Sun

Old thinking: PCs running a single OS

IT impact: Quicker software development and rapid application deployment, cutting costs and better leveraging server hardware

The concept behind virtual machines (VMs) is simple to state but hard to implement: Take a single server and divvy it into separate "virtual" machines with their own software-built memory, virtual hardware, drive images and other resources. Virtualization isn't new: IBM has been doing this on its mainframes for close to 30 years. What is new is that the power of virtual machines can be effectively delivered to the PC platform. And fierce competition in this space is forcing the major players literally to give away pieces of their VM server software.

Why the hot market? For IT, virtualization lets multiple operating systems and applications run on the same box, making it easier to provision new servers as necessary and make more efficient use of hardware. This continues the consolidation trend that began several years ago with blade servers: Think of virtualization as the ultimate result, where many individual servers can now run on the same piece of hardware rather than on individual blades. You save space, you save time, you simplify your IT support structure, and you save plenty of money reusing the same gear.

But there is more to VM than server consolidation. EMC, for instance, has already established some prebuilt virtual machine appliances that come with ready-made applications such as Web, e-mail and database servers that IT can install and have running in minutes - further reducing the time to build out new servers. "We plan to use virtual server management to reduce our server support efforts, minimize downtime and reduce the ongoing costs of server replacement, enabling us to support more hardware with existing staff," says Karen Green, CIO of Brooks Health System.

"Two years ago, it wouldn't have been possible to handle [such a heavy] workload in a data centre. Now we can, thanks to this new virtualization software," says Wienholtz.

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