Server Farming

Nov 6 2008   9:00PM GMT

Eight reasons data center managers should thank Wall Street

Bridget Botelho Profile: Bridget Botelho

Earlier this week I spoke with Rob Gardos, the CEO of the New York-based IT automation company GridApp Systems, about his paper “Eight Reasons Data Center Managers should thank Wall Street for the Financial Meltdown.”

As a reporter, I am keenly aware that when it comes to spinning crap into silk, product vendors are pros. So I was pretty skeptical when I saw the title of his paper.

So I asked Gardos to explain why in the world data center managers should thank anyone for the economic cesspool in which they now exist.

For starters, companies have had to reduce their head count because of the economy, so they have half the IT staff to do the same amount of work, he said.

And this is good?

Well, no, but data centers can’t have servers failing left and right and unorganized systems when there are fewer people to manage the issues. “This meltdown has accelerated the path to something dramatically more efficient,” Gardos said. “People are coming up with a new paradigm and are finding ways to improve their systems, because they have to. People are looking at how to minimize costs and how to cut down on tasks that don’t add value to the organization.”

Now that it is time to tighten ship, Gardos said data centers are doing things that will result in long-term benefits:

1.  Reducing costs, energy consumption and waste. Businesses have to find ways to minimize energy costs in the data center, reduce overspending on compliance efforts and automate time-consuming tasks.

2. Core data center priorities. IT professionals have seen the true centrality of product and project performance to company competitiveness. The downturn is to thank for the newfound clarity and redefined priorities.

3. Frugality. Businesses are forced to check line items and cut frivolous spending. This nuisance is a blessing in disguise and will improve spending for years to come.
4. Innovation. IT decision makers and managers have put their heads together to improve efficiency, productivity and competitiveness. This trial-by-fire brainstorming cbreathe new life into companies.

5. Cultivating talent. This includes talent. There is a surplus of once untouchable and highly qualified IT professionals swimming around. IT managers can beef up their staff for less.

6. Green IT. Ideas for operational savings have actually provoked businesses to engage in greening techniques. Many companies will emerge with lowered costs and a greener data center.

7. Competitiveness. Businesses are learning to do more with less, and those habits will continue after the crisis and improve competitiveness in times of prosperity.

8. Long-term benefits. Things are tight now but will the downturn actually spur budget increases in the post-short term for projects that have been placed on the backburner? Lessons learned may actually induce additional spending on virtualization, automation and other cost-savings initiatives.

Of course, it should be noted here that GridApp provides data center automation equipment and would probably love to see data centers using its tools, but Gardos made an effort to remain vendor neutral during our discussion.

“It is clear that infrastructure management and automation will drive efficiency forward – -things like [IT automation software company] BladeLogic make a lot of sense when there are fewer employees to do the work,” Gardos said. “Companies have to change their processes to do more with fewer people, and get more value out of the people the company has.”

He made some good points , and I wonder how many companies now lay off employees only to find themselves buying expensive software to automate the tasks their staff once performed. Seems likely that the data center automation market could ultimately benefit from these hard economic times.

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