The economic downturn may accomplish what Y2K never did, and that's to disrupt datacenter operations.
In the late 1990s, businesses spent tens of thousands of dollars, sometimes millions of dollars, remediating lines of code to ensure that their systems didn't succumb to the year 2000 date glitch.
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But this time, it is the lack of spending and a relentless drive for cutbacks that may be the biggest threat facing some datacenters today, according to the Association for Computer Operations Management (AFCOM), an association of datacenter managers.
Based on membership surveys, AFCOM predicted that in a five-year period, one out of every four datacenters would experience a serious business disruption, which could involve anything from an entire datacenter to a few pieces of equipment. But Leonard Eckhaus, founder of the Orange, Calif.-based AFCOM and its past president, said this threat of disruption is increasing as the economy declines. "We believe it will worsen," he said.
Eckhaus is basing this latest warning on surveys and other feedback from members. AFCOM conducted two surveys of members, one last May with 300 responses from datacenter managers and a follow-up survey in late fall, as economic conditions declined, to which 133 responded. Nearly half of the datacenter managers said cutbacks were planned, but the survey also cited some specific reasons why there might be a disruption in services, and two had to do with security: 6.1 percent are cutting physical security and 4.5 percent are scaling back data security. Nearly 12 percent said budget cuts generally would lead to disruptions.
But these surveys don't weigh in the impact of the federal stimulus spending, and datacenters may fare better than many other areas in this economy.
Tom Roberts, director of datacenter facility management at Trinity Information Services, the IT arm of a Novi, Mich.-based health care provider with 17 hospitals, said the nearly $900 billion in stimulus money may accelerate his planned spending on electronic records.
"My environment is about to double, triple in size," said Roberts in a forum at AFCOM's conference to discuss the survey results. Spending on IT and the power and cooling to support it could add up to hundreds of millions of dollars. "How can I keep up with that pace in a two-year period?" he said.
Most businesses would probably consider Trinity's problem a good one to have, but Roberts is also struggling with hiring datacenter talent. He's been focusing on retraining and redeploying IT staff to handle datacenter needs.