Virtualisation, SOA, and cloud computing are keys to accommodating the anticipated growth of datacentres in an energy-conscious environment according to a senior IBM executive.

Speaking at the Share conference in San Jose. Helene Armitage, vice president of systems software development in the IBM systems and technology group, emphasised substantial growth projections for datacentres - although she also pointed out concerns about the power consumption associated with such growth.

In particular, she highlighted industries such as medical imaging and financial services which were experiencing rapid growth. "Thirty percent of the world's storage in the next two years is going to be these medical images," Armitage said. Meanwhile, there are 5 billion messages occurring in the financial trading realm each day with the number projected to grow to the 130 billion per day in the next two years, she said.

Adding to the situation, storage capacity in datacenters is doubling every 18 months.

Datacentres will be spending as much on energy as they do on hardware, said Armitage. Based on the current trajectory, 10 new power plants would be needed in the United States in the next few years to accommodate growth, she said.

A conference attendee said the presentation was on the mark in terms of global energy initiatives. "I was rather surprised in terms of some of the numbers that datacentres were using in terms of energy," said the attendee, Mark Potter, vice president of corporate information security at Wachovia Small Business Capital.

IT users next year will spend US$200 billion on systems such as interconnects, networking, SANs, fabrics, switches, and enterprise routers, up from $30 billion a few years ago, said Armitage. "All of this requires us to take a new approach," she said.

Datacentres were not designed to handle current growth levels, she said. "I really think where we are headed is to create true architectures for our datacenters," Armitage said.

She advocated virtualisation coupled with SOA, citing IBM's experience. Cloud computing also factors into IBM's strategy. "We've been virtualising on the mainframe for 35 years. We're just talking about bringing that out into all the other environments as well," she said.

IBM has reduced downtime at Japan Airlines, for example, by using virtualisation, said Armitage. Nationwide Insurance is on track to save more than $15 million (£7.9m) during a three-year period with virtualisation, she added. The company was moved from 250 individual Linux servers to two IBM z/9 mainframes. Volkswagen went from 76 individual Linux servers down to six, according to Armitage.

"Virtualisation changes everything," she said. But it does bring additional complexity, said Armitage.

"It's not like there's a silver bullet. The issue in implementing virtualisation is doing the end-to-end architectural thinking around SOA," she said. Virtualisation can involve taking many small operations and consolidating them on a mainframe or taking small operations and making them work together as a single operation, sharing capabilities such as I/O and storage, Armitage said.

Cloud computing, in which user sites leverage the capacity of a third party's computers, offers a way to acquire IT capacity on a pay-as-you-go basis, Armitage said. Benefits also include cost savings, resource scalability, and flexibility.

Armitage also cited energy savings redistributing of heat and cooling around the datacentre. This can save 20 percent in energy use, she said.

Also at the Share event, CA announced a plan to release a range of enhancements to its mainframe management software for the z/OS, z/VSE, and z/VM platforms. The products introduced include CA SymDump Batch r8, to bolster z/OS management; CA Spool r11.5, offering IPv6 support and remote printing support for z/OS; CA Datacom r11 SP4, for near-real-time replication of data for z/OS; and CA Dynam for z/VSE 7.1, for simplified z/VSE tape management.

Also announced were CA ACF2 r12 and CA Top Secret r12 SP2, for additional security attribute sharing and compliance reporting for z/OS.