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Density – More than a Metric (Part 2)
August 6, 2012

By: Tate Cantrell, CTO of Verne Global

Tate Cantrell is CTO of Verne Global with primary responsibilities for product design and development and data center operations.

Tate-Cantrell-tnTATE CANTRELL
Verne Global

In Part 1, I looked at the impact of density on data center designs and organizational decisions. Today, this post will examine a list of key considerations for data center planners as they work strategically to not only handle data center density, but to benefit from it.

Consider Spreading Out.

If the majority of the proposed environment is either high or low density, capture it within your own operation, and then aggressively search for outsourced solutions that meet the criteria for the other environments. Software as a Service (SAAS) and other cloud-driven products continue to receive huge amounts of investment that attracts the top product innovators. Ignoring this source of innovation and its potential impacts to even a well established business is simply a mistake.

Think Modularly.

The advantage of a modular solution is that an environment tuned for high density can live side by side with the lowest density telecommunications applications without stranding real estate. Rapid deployment matters and modular solutions if selected with the appropriate design or outside vendor can deliver solutions with speed.

Pay Attention to Open Compute.

Not every idea that comes out of the Open Compute movement will play in the hands of each data center manager, but announcements like the modified 21” rack design are really exciting. Finally, we see vendors like HP working on layouts that reduce airflow requirements for cooling. Google was doing this a decade ago and now these innovations are in the public forum and on the fast track to commodity. Data center designers take note.

Cooling Matters.

Air is all around and thankfully water is not, unless we’re taking a dip on a warm summer’s day. Cooling with fluid is an appropriate method for many applications, but cooling with the air around us whenever possible is a sustainable decision that also dramatically reduces first costs when properly designed.

Futureproof.

Considering the environment in the design decisions of today is not just an important thing to do for the generations that will follow us, it the fiduciary responsibility of the CIO and CTO alike. Over time, we will see that a reduction in waste during technology refresh will become a notable cost item. A reduction in form factor of servers from boxes to cards is a nod in the favor of higher density cabinet footprints, but it is also a nod toward a reduction in waste and ultimately the expense of handling. Europe will likely lead the charge in ensuring that technology is disposed of with proper regard. Business leaders can prepare for this now by considering server waste and frequency of refresh in their planning.

Don’t Fear Density.

A high density environment certainly doesn’t look like a data center of five years ago, but such environments are here to stay and will be used more and more with time. Dense environments provide new opportunities for reduction in labor per unit of compute. They also encourage an increase in automation that benefits innovation by allowing rapid deployment of new platforms while sustaining our need for standardization with a lower number of SKU’s entered into the DCIM.

Think Big.

Google, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon – they all grab huge tracts of land and develop out over time to ensure that their growth models are met even in the most optimistic sense. While this works for companies with Billions in their back pockets, this may not be the solution for all enterprise organizations. But even the smallest enterprise can think big by engaging multi-tenant, wholesale providers that have already taken down large, dedicated environments. Such an alliance will allow the company to grow within the predictability of a well-positioned campus

Prepare for M&A.

If you want to drive your business forward – be prepared to aggressively take down new environments and feed them into your standards. Be aware of other configurations in the industry and be prepared to host them and reduce the overhead of multiple configurations. Modularity in design, virtualization of platform and shared storage are the basic tools for this preparation.

The data center age is upon us. The data center emerges from the bottom of the balance sheet as a necessary cost to top-line center for growth. This focus pushes IT forward into an industrial age, where standard business strategies apply to the data center more than ever. Know your process, monitor your key objectives, choose partners wisely, and search for benefit in every square centimeter of your data center environment. Net profit per unit of compute purchased is the true density that we strive to optimize.

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