Data centre density
9 March 2015 | 0
“We’re trying to solve it for customers before they hit it.”
Power and cooling
The issue of power and cooling in a dense environment is also something that Choudhuri finds interesting. While VMware hasn’t encountered many companies directly affected by having to scale back rack use because of power and cooling issues, he acknowledges it may be an issue for some early adopters maxing out their hardware.
“Power and cooling are interesting to consider. Not only have the server manufacturers made it so that you can run five or six times the number of VMs per server as you used to, they’ve also made it so that if you can run your data centre one degree warmer, that can save you something like 18% of your power and cooling budget. When you use less electricity the numbers are mind-blowing,” he said.
“If you’re using ultra dense systems, and some of the data centre providers are, then you are going to have issues if you are trying to use conventional hardware management systems. Basically, it’s not going to work. You have to be able to get enough power to the rack, and run it at the correct level of cooling. Otherwise you’re going to be spending a fortune on electricity.”
It goes without saying that the data centre has undergone significant change in recent years, mirroring the changing ways in which companies store, process and retrieve data. Virtualisation, cloud technologies, remotely delivered storage, compute, infrastructure and software-defined utilities have blurred the lines between where data resides and what it’s used for.
“Traditionally, data centres were just racks and infrastructure — a location for data to reside, but as the cloud has blurred the lines of data geolocation, the data centre has become more about data management,” said Vincent McHugh, senior technical architect, specialising in virtualisation with Comsys.
“Data in a data centre might be sitting in a public cloud, hybrid or private cloud and be dealt with in any number of ways.”
McHugh has seen various types of system architecture in data centres in his time, with wildly varying quality levels.
“We’ve seen customers who have installed fantastic infrastructure on the hardware side of things but at the software level it’s not been designed well at all. With virtualisation the fact you can provision and implement VMs can lead to VM sprawl, and that can lead to application sprawl as well,” he said.
“We’ve come across customers with databases who aren’t sure what’s linked to that database. They don’t know what the application mapping to that database is and that creates management headaches. Virtualisation can improve things but standardisation is really important for this.”
Comsys recommends creating standardised building blocks when provisioning virtual machines and data centre fit out, whether it’s converged or hyper-converged infrastructure.
“If you have less building blocks in your data centre, then that’s going to make your management easier which will in turn decrease your costs,” said McHugh.
“If you’ve standardised your images, to the point where you might only need a couple of images, and then you ask ruthless questions about what you need additional images — that can lead to better management and decreased labour costs. You can then take advantage of some of the newer technologies coming on line.”