I attended Day #1 of the Gartner Data Center conference here in Las Vegas today - after making the strategic error of being dropped-off at the MGM Grand lobby, and having to walk what must have been 3/4 mile to the conference center...
Thomas Bittman opened the AM with a keynote on the Future of Data Center Operations. It had a pretty broad coverage of the state of DC Ops today. He had at least one memorable interjection -- What seemed as a warning to equipment vendors who have strangle-holds over customers... strongly urging customers to reject platform-specific IT technologies. He also predicted the emergence of the "meta-O/S" and the "cloud-O/S" which (I think) is a re-packaging of Gartner's Real Time Infrastructure (RTI) story. And that the meta-O/S had to be platform adn vendor-neutral. But this was the first time that I've heard Gartner pay specific attention to the emergence & legitimac of cloud computing (and the "O/S" to run it).
Next, Donna Scott gave an equally broad-ranging talk on IT Operations Management. Again, she conducted her now 5+ year-old survey of IT's biggest pressures. And once again "high rate of change", "cost containment" and "maintaining availability" took top-honors as the largest ulcer-producing pressures facing CIOs. Also true-to-form, she re-iterated that a shared infrastructure (RTI) is inevitable, breaking down the islands of technology in large data centers.
There were also some interesting vendor break-out sessions; take for example, a session on managing power and cooling from Emerson Network Power by Greg Ratcliff. The trend here is also toward an intelligent monitoring and infrastructure. He spoke of localized cooling (even within the rack) needed as rack power density increases. There was definitely reference to "adaptive cooling" and "adaptive power" -- again implying that efficiencies in large data centers can only be achieved through better use of technology, rather than throwing raw horsepower at the heat/power problem.
Finally, one last surprising (to me) datapoint: the general audience was asked who was using virtualization in production - and 1/2 to 2/3 of the audience raised their hands. This definitely drove-home the point that VMs are (and will be) everywhere. However, I combine this observation with the earlier point that data centers will need a management layer, an "O/S", which is vendor-neutral. At the moment, I don't see any of the existing large vendors stepping up to fill this virtualization managment need any time soon.