The forecast for data centres isn't good for the short-term: they're going to get hotter and a lot more cramped, according to Gartner analysts.
Increasing use of cheaper x86 chip-based servers has presented problems for data centres, most of which haven't been redesigned since the last tech boom went bust six years ago, says Rakesh Kumar, a Gartner research vice president. He spoke on Monday during a presentation at Gartner's Data Centre Technology Summit in London.
The number of server racks is increasing. Consequently, the amount of floor space in data centres is decreasing, but their power and cooling requirements are rising.
More attention is being focused on the environmental impacts of running high-energy data centres and moves by governments toward new legislation.
"It will come down to a balance between the power, the cooling and the floor space," Kumar says. "What that means is legacy data centres are obsolete."
Gartner predicts that within 12 to 18 months organisations will have to make major changes to accommodate the heating and cooling challenges that come with more processing power.
Four years ago, a stand-alone server in a rack used two kilowatts of electricity. Today, a standard rack filled with between 50 percent to 80 percent of blade servers consume between 15 kilowatts and 30 kilowatts per rack, Kumar says.
The cooling statistics complicate the power picture. It takes between 1.2 to 1.3 times the amount of energy a server consumes to cool it, Kumar said. IT managers frequently can't fill an entire rack because of the heat generated by the servers.
Floor cooling, where cool air is circulated under server racks, and air conditioning -- aren't going to work anymore because the heat is too great, Kumar says. What's more, the cool space beneath the servers in legacy data centres becomes clogged with cables and wires and occasionally, other odd things that interfere.