How to Build the Immortal Data Center

If your data center is reaching capacity and you're thinking about cracking open the corporate piggy bank to fund a new data center, stop right there.

By Neal Weinberg
Thu, October 10, 2013

Network World — Orlando -- If your data center is reaching capacity and you're thinking about cracking open the corporate piggy bank to fund a new data center, stop right there.

By following some simple best practices, you may be able to take your existing data center and retrofit it to last pretty much forever, says Gartner analyst David Cappuccio.

"If you do it right, there's a good chance you could live in a fairly well designed data center for decades,'' Cappuccio says.

So, how do you get there? First, you need to identify the goals of the infinite data center. It needs to be energy efficient. It needs to be economical to build. It needs to be able to adapt to new technologies. And it needs to be able to support continuous growth.

The first step is to build up the density of your server racks. If your racks are at 50% or 60% capacity, then consider increasing the density to 80% or even 90%, says Cappuccio.

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Increasing the density allows you to run your existing workloads on a smaller footprint and to create space for future growth.

The reasons data center managers don't run their server racks at 90% capacity relates mostly to the concern that the servers will run too hot.

Cappuccio recommends that data center managers analyze the different types of activities running on those servers and to create high density, medium density and low density zones.

Throwing up walls and creating a separate room for high density servers allows you to deliver the requisite cooling to that room, but then allows you to run your storage devices and telecom gear, for example, in a zone that doesn't require state-of-the-art cooling systems.

Creating these speciality zones can save companies up to 40% in operating expenses, Cappuccio says.

The next step is to embark on a slow, systematic refresh cycle. Buy a new rack of state-of-the-art 1U servers and methodically move workloads onto this new rack until it's up to 80% or 90% capacity.

Cappuccio argues that the energy efficiency of the new server will pay for itself over time, compared to running older, energy inefficient servers.A To put a number on it, Cappuccio estimates that the energy savings can fund 80% of refresh costs.

And as you move workloads to the new server, you can decommission older server racks and thereby free up additional space. This becomes an ongoing process that allows you to continue to improve the efficiency of your existing data center without ever having to construct a new building.

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