Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Monday, July 22, 2024

Unlocking Your Datacenter’s Potential 

The modern datacenter is a critical component of a successful enterprise, but when it comes to power, cooling, and space constraints, datacenter operators are feeling the pinch. 

The modern datacenter is a critical component of a successful enterprise, but as we covered here, when it comes to power, cooling, and space constraints, datacenter operators are feeling the pinch. A recent report from UBM Tech and InformationWeek Marketing Services paints a familiar picture. Out of 100 US-based IT decision makers surveyed, 57 percent expect to encounter serious power, cooling and space constraints by the end of 2014.

The respondents, executives from North American companies with more than 500 employees, were asked a series of questions about the state of their datacenters and the challenges they faced. In the analysis that followed, "going green" was singled out as essential to the evolving datacenter. In the words of Johnny Martin of Independence Blue Cross, "Going green not only reduces our utility bill, it also helps us become a leaner, more efficient organization." 

Sponsored by Siemens and penned by Andrew Mazer, the report shows that only 17 percent of the IT executives are looking to break ground on a new datacenter to solve their capacity and power problems. 29 percent of the respondents plan on upgrading their existing datacenters within the next two years while 18 percent say they will maintain what they already have without significant hardware upgrades.

The general opinion on "going green" was that it's important but expensive, leading companies to single out one or two high-value strategies. The most common steps that IT decision makers have taken towards reducing power in their datacenters are optimizing air handling, deploying power management tools, cold aisle-hot aisle containment, and detailed power monitoring – in that order.

"Most companies today that are going green are primarily interested in cutting their power and cooling expenses," commented Kelly Quinn of IDC. "They are looking for short-term benefits and use approaches like hot aisle-cold aisle assignments and perhaps ultrasonic cooling. However, some data center providers, in an effort to keep costs low for their customers, are embracing more sophisticated technologies such as ambient cooling using outside air and fuel cells to create electricity."

In 2008, Siemens performed a similar study with quite different results. There is markedly more interest nowadays in energy-efficient hardware and improved cooling systems. Back then, virtualization was cited as the most common approach for reducing energy usage.

In the latest report, 31 percent of respondents cited aging facilities as a main concern, compared to only 15 percent in 2008. Worry about lack of processing capacity has held steady (at 27 percent), while fear of losing data has decreased by 10 percent (from 25 percent to 15 percent).

The most common method for resolving capacity issues is to lease colocation space. Modular datacenter additions are another way to add capacity quickly, but it's only feasible when the datacenter operator has some free space to work with.

The report emphasizes energy efficiency and manageability as essential characteristics of the evolving datacenter. The author highlights the importance of keeping close tabs on "critical metrics such as PUE, key performance indicators (KPIs), or cost of energy." He adds that an integrated DCIM solution will help unlock the full potential of the datacenter "to efficiently deliver new services, protect data, limit operational expenses and keep a lid on energy consumption."