Virtualization, combined with a push to shut down older data centers, helped lower the total number of data centers for the first time—even as their total capacity continues to rise. New market research by IDC shows that the total number of data centers of all types shrank by 0.7 percent. While that’s essentially flat, IDC found the decline significant by virtue of being the first such decline since 2009. Looking ahead, IDC believes the two trends—increased data center capacity, despite fewer actual data centers—will only accelerate. Total datacenter space will increase significantly, the firm predicted, growing from 611.4 million square feet in 2012 to more than 700 million square feet in 2016—an increase of 14.5 percent. Between 2012 and 2016, however, IDC said it expects the total number of datacenters in the U.S. to decline from 2.94 million to 2.89 million. At that point, IDC suggests that service providers will account for more than a quarter of all large datacenter capacity in place in the United States. In all, IDC predicted that small internal data centers will decline even as the number of large data centers grows. IDC attributed the shrinking numbers of data centers to a trend in consolidation, with smaller data centers ending up combined into larger facilities. Older and less-efficient facilities, despite their larger size, may also end up closed as their costs and wastes increasingly justify shutdown. "CIOs are increasingly being asked to improve business agility while reducing the cost of doing business through aggressive use of technologies in the datacenter," Rick Villars, vice president of Datacenter and Cloud Research at IDC, wrote in a statement. "At the same time, they have to ensure the integrity of the business and its information assets in the face of natural disasters, datacenter disruptions, or local system failures. To achieve both sets of objectives, IT decision makers had to rethink their approach to the datacenter." While the number of servers within the data center was expected to slow, IDC said that one of the key characteristics of the content explosion is data centralization, driven by performance, compliance, and scale requirements. As a result, midsize and large datacenters are the main segments where the content explosion is having a major impact. For data-center operators, IDC’s August numbers offered some very specific lessons: bladed servers are succeeding, Linux in the datacenter continues to find a role, and the market for non-X86 servers has plunged almost 20 percent. IDC group vice president and server analyst Matt Eastwood said at the time that he expects server demand to pick up in the second half of 2012, however, following “critical product refreshes which continue to be announced.”   Image: asharkyu/