Data centres unmanned by 2012

Environmental concerns meeting up with new technology such as virtualisation will lead to a majority of data centres being automated and unmanned by 2012, computer maker Fujitsu Siemens has predicted.

While many UK data centres already run on a "lights out" basis, the firm predicted they will outnumber manned centres within the next four years.

A senior technology strategist at the firm said that the move to remote, automated data management was already happening. "It's becoming more popular, we're already starting to see it," said David Pritchard.

"Tomorrow's data centre will resemble more of a 'one man and a dog' set-up - the dog is there for security and the man is there to feed the dog," he said.

One of the drivers is the environmental, power saving appeal of automation. Many systems are programmed to turn off when not being used, which is the first step of "forcing automation into data centres," said Pritchard. "To save on power and save polar bears."

Another driver to unmanned systems is the increasing simplicity of such system architecture. Pooled, virtualised systems decreases the need for a large number of servers in one place, meaning a large staff isn't needed for management. "You don't need people if you start virtualising your whole infrastructure," he said. "It's a move to remote management."

Innovations in software will also mean analysis, configuration and optimisation will become part of the system, leading to a decrease in the number of technicians needed, while boosting the number of virtualisation specialists necessary.

Aside from staffing issues, Pritchard said there was no real downside to such an evolution. "It takes people out of the equation, makes faster decisions and more predictable decisions," he said. "It makes you decide up front."

Being forced to decided at the beginning how a system will respond to data will be a boost to business, he said. "It's getting IT to really help business - about what you do with it rather than just keeping the thing running."