About 15 miles from its medical center in downtown San Antonio, Christus Health is building a US$23 million data center to house a flood of digital information ranging from patient insurance records to CT scans.
At 48,000 square feet (of which only 7,500 square feet will be used at first), the new facility will dwarf the hospital's current 4,000-square-foot data center, which has been bursting at the seams for years even though the IT staff has made every effort to virtualize servers and otherwise squeeze more life out of it.
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"Imaging data is growing by leaps and bounds as more types of information gets digitized," says Mark Middleton, system director for IT architecture at the Irving, US-based health care provider. "We've done all the remediation we can but have eaten up all of the electricity, all of the cooling and all the physical space we had."
Christus Health is a prime example of why, even in a wobbly economy, many organizations are still rebuilding or redesigning their data centers.
Many need to reconfigure their IT operations to save money. Some can't afford, or get, enough electricity and cooling into their current facilities to handle rack after rack of the latest, densely packed blade servers. Others need more computing, storage or network capacity to handle new applications or to cope with acquisitions. Still others need to improve their disaster recovery capabilities.
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Demands Up, Budgets Down
More than half of 27 CIOs and senior IT leaders interviewed by market researcher IDC this spring reported reductions in their budgets for this year. Many also reported that they had consolidated data centers, applications and data, and IDC analyst Henry Morris says the study revealed "a significant shift toward cost reduction rather than revenue generation as a driver of IT investment."
The lights aren't completely out in John Nester's data center, but there are fewer of them burning late at night and on weekends these days.
That's because remote management tools running on notebook PCs and even BlackBerries allow his staff to remotely monitor servers, networks and storage and to solve problems without going near the data center.
"We can be out of the office and check a server, reset accounts, set up e-mail or do any number of things from our BlackBerries," says Nester, a data center administrator in the Pennsylvania attorney general's office. "We get e-mails when there are power issues, when there's a cooling issue, when there's a server issue. We can take care of the situation before it even happens."
His team relies on remote access tools from several vendors, including Microsoft, Citrix Systems, Cisco Systems, American Power Conversion and Rove, to monitor everything from servers and storage to power and cooling. "I can sit at home and manage the entire data center," Nester says.
-- Robert L. Scheier