Remember when you first learned to share with someone, and the thrill that it gave you to do so? Today, it's possible to get that feeling all over again when you rediscover that basic principle of sharing and how it can save money. Sharing data center resources is an emerging trend that not only saves money but also allows you access to a brave new world of leveraged support, enhanced skills and better security. This leading-edge kindergarten ideal is what I call the Community Data Center.
The first concept that Robert Fulghum lists in his 1989 landmark book, "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten," is "Share everything." I doubt he knew in the late 1980s, when he wrote the original version, that it would someday apply to data centers. I think he knew, though, that the concept, so basic in nature, applies to almost any situation.
You're probably thinking that this is not a new idea since Internet service providers and hosting companies have been providing such services for more than 10 years. You'd be correct. These companies leverage hardware, software and personnel to provide services and support for your web sites, email, applications and co-located server systems. Cloud computing is one example of an expanded version of this business model. Sharing resources is less expensive than building and maintaining the infrastructure, applications and personnel on an individual basis.
So what's different about a community data center?
What's different is trust. When you share something, you place trust in the person with whom you've shared. A shared data center works on the premise of trust as well.
A community data center is a concept based on trust and cooperation among all participating parties. Here's one example of how it works. You place your server systems into a shared data center space within the building that houses your office and workers. Shared resources include power, cooling, physical security, connectivity, rack space and possibly system administration. Instead of each business in a building or complex maintaining its own individual data center or server room, all use a single shared facility. Each business pays according to its amount of shared resources consumed.
For network security, businesses connect to their assets by virtual private network (VPN), and each company's data flow is segregated from one another by using virtual LANs (VLANs). Physical access is limited to systems administrators and designated "keyholders."
The community data center saves individual businesses money by sharing resources. Maintaining your own systems is expensive. How much space does your personal data center or server room occupy now? Is it enough to allow for conversion to additional office space or other productive quarters? By removing a data center from your office space, will you save money by moving to a smaller space? How much are you spending on support for your systems? Shared support is an excellent way to save money and leverage new skills that those administrators and developers bring to the table.
Depending on your particular community data center members, you might decide to cooperate on a higher level and greater savings by employing virtualization and removing your dependence on physical systems.
Whether your sandbox is full of grains or chips, learning to share is good for your soul and your bank account. Write back and tell me if you're using community or cooperative data center resources. Also let me know if you're now inspired to consider this as an alternative way to save money.
Ken Hess is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of open source topics including Linux, databases, and virtualization. You may reach him through his web site at http://www.kenhess.com.