Intelligence lies at the heart of planning for the evolving data centre

Over the past decade, the rate at which we generate data has grown exponentially, and the value of this data to business has increased at the same rate.

October 15, 2012

By Elrica Quick, APC Product Specialist at DCC

Over the past decade, the rate at which we generate data has grown exponentially, and the value of this data to business has increased at the same rate. However, all of this data requires somewhere to store it, and as a result the data centre too has undergone a transformation. From a nice to have room where a couple of servers were kept, the data centre has become the lifeblood of the organisation, storing all of the company’s customer information, emails, transactions and more. Without this information business would grind to a halt.

However, while new data storage solutions such as blade servers enable more data to be stored in less space, upgrading to this technology is seldom a simple matter of replacing old servers with new. The evolution of the data centre is about so much more than just packing more storage into the same amount of space, and requires careful planning. There are several considerations that should be taken into account when it comes to ensuring that this business critical component of the ICT infrastructure delivers as required and remains as cost effective as possible.

As organisations are beginning to realise the importance of the data centre, there has been massive investment in upgrading technology. In order to cater for increased demand for storage, the IT department will purchase new technology such as blade servers. However, replacing traditional servers with blades is not just a matter of taking out the old and installing the new.

A rack of blade servers requires a lot more power to run than a standard server rack, and if this higher power load cannot be catered for, the servers will not work or could burn out. Blade servers can also be too long or too heavy for a standard server rack. If they are installed in a standard rack they could cause the rack to bend and collapse, damaging the very expensive blade servers. The data centre needs to be equipped to deal with blade server technology before these servers are installed, in order to ensure continued functionality and fewer wasted resources.

Besides the physical differences associated with blade servers, there are other aspects that need to be addressed as well. If something goes wrong in a data centre the consequences can be disastrous. If power supply fails, sensitive storage equipment can be damaged and data can be lost. The same applies if cooling is not adequately addressed, which is a vital component of an environment which uses blade servers. Blade servers are highly sensitive to heat fluctuations and require directed cooling to maintain optimal operating temperatures. These issues require intelligent technology and proper planning to address the challenges that go hand in hand with the evolving data centre of today.

If power supply and cooling are upgraded as an afterthought, once blade servers have already been installed and other infrastructure has been altered, this can end up being far more costly than simply doing it right the from the start. Correct planning is critical in upgrading the data centre with new technologies.

Before new equipment is purchased, the data centre and the business both need to be analysed to obtain a clear picture of current requirements and requirements for the future. Once this analysis is complete, intelligent solutions can be incorporated to ensure that the data centre is right sized for current needs, to maintain cost effectiveness, but is easily scalable in order to future-proof it for growth.

Modular, intelligent in-line cooling solutions can be placed directly on the data racks, to effectively cool blade servers individually, with directed cooling as needed according to the amount of heat each server is generating at any given time. More cooling systems can be added as the data centre grows, minimising wastage. Modular UPS solutions can be used to cater for current needs and easily be upgraded by adding more modules as power needs grow. These solutions can also be linked into monitoring solutions to ensure that they are functioning correctly, helping to preserve the integrity of the data centre.

In this way, the data centre can be upgraded in a modular way, instead of conducting a costly forklift upgrade after new servers have already been purchased. Planning and the use of intelligent technology are at the heart of ensuring that the data centre serves the needs of the organisation now and into the future, without costing a fortune.