Decisions, Decisions: Choices Abound as Data Center Architecture Options Expand

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Deciding how to proceed

For companies trying to figure out their next move when it comes to data center considerations, Hill suggests starting by working backwards. You need to have a good understanding of your workloads and where the peaks and valleys are, as well as the ebbs and flows of your production environment, he says.

awaiting servers bugeater flickr Flickr/Bugeater

Server enclosures awaiting their residents.

Once you've established your hardware requirements, you have to deal with power and cooling. Enterprises tend to have organically grown data centers with a mix of old and new technologies, Hill says. Among the challenges of building your own data center are the compression of hardware and a workload designed for four racks now fitting into one. "All of a sudden you have to deal with ... that one [high-capacity] rack rather than those four lower-capacity racks."

Another issue occurs when, in times of an economic downturn or hard times for the company, IT typically gets its budget cut and has to lengthen its refresh cycle from a standard three to five years to five to seven years or longer. Then the company is sitting on antiquated hardware.

If you decide to move to the cloud or outsource to a managed services provider, require the vendor to refresh hardware every 36 months, advises Bob Mobach, director of data center solutions at Logicalis.

Companies undergoing significant growth may choose colocation if they find that their existing data centers are facing hard limits in terms of space, power or cooling capacity, either now or in the future, says Gartner's Iams. "With some colocation services, it may be possible to build assurances into contracts that guarantee the colocation service will be able to provide facilities to handle expected future growth. With such terms in the contract, companies can defer the risk of meeting the needs of future growth to the colocation service, rather than having to accurately project future data center capacity and then make the investments to build that capacity themselves."

In terms of trying to go green with your architecture, Mobach says that's something that "should always be on the forefront of everyone's mind ... EPA ratings with Energy Star labels are available for servers as well as data centers and will result in thousands of dollars of savings." However, green data centers require an extra investment and may not be suited to SMBs. "For small data centers, these investments oftentimes are disproportionate and do not result in direct savings," if the total wattage of the data center is well under 40 kilowatts, he says.

"Going green is not an inexpensive proposition; it's the right one, but it will definitely require 10 to 30% extra cost overall," Mobach says.

Pondering your next data center move is a huge financial consideration that, like anything else, requires careful evaluation and planning. If you opt for outsourcing and/or cloud integration, vendor SLAs should be closely studied to determine remediation policy and overall client attention to ensure a similar experience to internal provisioning. For large enterprises, the evaluation of current asset investments, contracts and depreciation schedules should all be taken under consideration.

Ultimately, Hill believes, it is often easier to go with the "as-a-service" model than it is to build a data center yourself. "Now we're talking about an environment where so many tasks have become generic enough that it's easy to find resources that match your requirements."

This story, "Decisions, Decisions: Choices Abound as Data Center Architecture Options Expand" was originally published by Computerworld.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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