Hugh Pickens writes: "For years, data center designers have toiled in obscurity in the engine rooms of the digital economy, amid the racks of servers and storage devices that power everything from online videos to corporate e-mail systems but now people with the skills to design, build and run a data center that does not endanger the power grid are suddenly in demand. "The data center energy problem is growing fast, and it has an economic importance that far outweighs the electricity use," said Jonathan G. Koomey of Stanford University. "So that explains why these data center people, who haven't gotten a lot of glory in their careers, are in the spotlight now." The pace of the data center build-up is the result of the surging use of servers, which in the United States rose to 11.8 million in 2007, from 2.6 million a decade earlier. "For years and years, the attitude was just buy it, install it and don't worry about it," says Vernon Turner, an analyst for IDC. "That led to all sorts of inefficiencies. Now, we're paying for that behavior." Most of the 6,600 data centers in America, analysts say, will be replaced or retrofitted with new equipment over the next several years so now that costs and energy consumption are priorities, the data center gurus are getting a hearing and new respect. "After 25 years, we're finally elevating mechanical engineering and adding a lot of electrical engineering, computer science and applied physics," says data center designer Chandrakant Patel of Hewlett-Packard. "I wish I were 20 years younger.""
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