That one year stretches out to three, and suddenly, the outside world has changed. The data centre is no longer flexible enough to react to the changes. The need to respond becomes acute and the company’s technological competitive edge begins to wane.
According to 451 Research’s “Voice of the Enterprise” survey, organizations are freeing up budgets and investing in modernizing neglected data centre facilities. Of those that are increasing spending, 37 per cent are doing so to support data centre retrofits or upgrade projects, and 62 per cent of organizations are consolidating their IT infrastructure.
The first step in rescuing an ailing data centre is to recognize the signs of age. Below are some common examples of warning signs that point to a struggling data centre:
1. Lack of space/power capacity – When data centre physical space or power capacity begins to run out, two sets of problems emerge. First, the business is constrained in its ability to grow at the desired pace. If a short-term market opportunity presents itself, whether or not the data centre can adapt quickly is a critical success factor for cashing-in on that opportunity. The second problem is that adding new servers can overload branch circuits and drive-up the data centre temperatures. Both of these situations can lead to unanticipated downtime.
One low-cost option for freeing up data centre space and/or power capacity is to reduce or consolidate IT load. This can occur either through virtualization or energy management (e.g. limiting how much electricity a server can consume). Identification and archiving of unused servers and consolidation of servers that have CPU utilization below 10 per cent are tactics that can reduce power consumption and, if remaining loads are physically consolidated, can save floor space.
2. Inefficient cooling – Over time, rack densities tend to increase. Eventually, a tipping point is reached and hot spots emerge within the data centre. Data centre staff will need to determine if the existing cooling distribution can handle these more concentrated loads. For a traditional, uncontained raised-floor data centre, more than 50 per cent of the cold air supplied from the cooling units will bypass back to these units directly as a result of leakage paths that exist. These poor airflow management practices diminish the effectiveness of existing cooling systems.
Short term tactics such as adding blanking panels to racks, brush strips to raised floors, and row containment can increase the utilization of the cooling systems already in place. If containment is applied, supply air will instead pass through IT equipment where it will absorb heat energy and transport it back to the cooling units. The resulting higher exhaust air temperatures can increase the cooling capacity by 20 per cent or more across existing cooling units.
3. Rising maintenance costs – When maintenance costs continue to climb at a steady rate, it could mean that antiquated systems are threatening the reliability of data centre operations. As a facility ages, the possibility of failures increases. Therefore, the development of an effective operations and maintenance program grows in importance.
Warning signs that components within the data centre are close to end-of-life include vendors dropping support for installed systems, scarcity of spare parts, capacity and efficiency KPIs that don’t meet current or future needs, and unserviceable parts that are either failing or likely to fail.
Martin Heller is a Field Services Senior Program Manager at Schneider Electric, a global specialist in energy management and data center solutions
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