Open Data Center Alliance Charts Future

A new industry consortium made up of IT managers is building a set of blueprints on how best to build and operate data centers and cloud infrastructures, and in doing so, its members hope to serve as a unified voice that drives the future direction of the technology.

The Open Data Center Alliance, formed in late October, is made up of IT managers from 70 large corporations from different industries worldwide, including BMW, Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase, Lockheed Martin and Marriott International.

Organizers, faced with common IT problems such as vendor lock-in, integration needs and tight budgets, hope to produce use cases and road maps for deploying data centers and the cloud in a vendor-neutral, standards-based way. They?re tackling issues, such as interoperability, security and the ability to seamlessly migrate data between data centers and clouds.

Other companies leading the effort include China Life, National Australia Bank, Shell, Terremark and UBS. Intel serves as a technical advisor. And since the launch, other companies have expressed interest in joining, says Marvin Wheeler, chair of the alliance and chief strategy officer of Terremark, which provides cloud computing and other hosting services.

?We?ve gotten an overwhelming response from CIOs from companies all over the globe, and it’s refreshing to see all these CIOs not only joining, but they?re rolling up their sleeves and participating in the working teams to develop the recommendations, roadmap items and use cases,? he says.

The IT managers in the consortium want to leverage their $50 billion in collective IT spending and convince vendors to build features and products they need. To do so, the group?s members have agreed to use the materials they produce and include them as part of their future data center planning and purchasing decisions, Wheeler says. 

?If you look at the deliverables, there should be documents and information that you can literally cut and paste onto your RFP,? he says. ?For example, it may have a section where the vendor must adhere to industry standards, and you can say ?this is what we expect in the RFP.??

The alliance plans to release its ?Usage Model Roadmap? during the first quarter of 2011 and will refine its materials over time, Wheeler says. They are specifically working on 19 usage models that will serve as guides for IT managers to build and operate data centers and cloud infrastructures now and into the future.

The group has split the work into five technical workgroups: infrastructure; management; security; services, such as how to provision services; and government and eco-system, which will look at cloud and licensing models.

For example, the management technical working group is examining power management issues. Wheeler says it makes sense for servers to hibernate when they are not in use, and for server management software to then communicate that to building management systems, so cooling units don?t have to run at maximum strength all the time. Coordination between these systems would reduce power usage and cut costs.

?We?re looking at the macro view of what are all the things that need to come together, so everything is well-orchestrated,? he says.

Software and hardware manufacturers all have their individual users groups that they receive feedback from, but the Open Data Center Alliance has the potential to become a powerful, coordinated voice for IT managers, says Jonathan Eunice, principal IT advisor at Illuminata Inc., an analyst firm in Nashua, N.H. For the group to succeed, they first have to come to agreement, he says.

?If you?ve got customers that spend a combined $50 billion in IT and they, in a coordinated way, say we really need this reliability clustering feature, it?s powerful.?

Eunice says several forces came together to make the organization possible. Many CIOs are dealing with the same issues and implementing the same projects, such as virtualization, consolidation and shared services. Social networking, such as blogging, Twitter and Facebook, is another driver. People today are more willing to share ideas and cooperate than a decade or two ago, he says .

During alliance meetings, IT managers are sharing their expertise and best practices with each other as they work to produce the Usage Model Roadmap.

?They collaborate and trade information with each other,? Wheeler says. ?Everyone walks out of their feeling like they learned something.?