‘Right sizing’ the best approach to data centre design

Owen Wynne of eircom talks data centre design at TechFire

30 April 2015

Visualisation tools, modelling and the insight and experience of technology partners can ensure that data centres are designed and operated optimally, allowing organisations to get the best from investments.

This was one of the key themes at the latest TechFire briefing that focused on the world of hybrid cloud and prospect of competing with the web giants. Event chair and TechPro editor Paul Hearns argued in the opening presentation that in a world of hybrid cloud, organisations would inevitably face a situation where whatever is served from internal resources and private cloud would be compared with what is consumed from public cloud.

While not all attending agreed that that this was a fair, or even realistic comparison, the majority present agreed with the analysts’ assertion that the future of business computing for the majority is hybrid cloud. By a show of hands, around 10% of attendees confirmed that they had been involved in a green or brownfield new data centre.

Vincent Barro, vice president, Schneider Electric in Ireland, outlined the emissions and carbon pressures being faced by the ICT industry, quoting International Energy Agency figures that expect global energy demand to double by 2050, contrasted by the need to reduce carbon emission by half to avoid dramatic climate change by the same year. Despite this imperative, none of the attendees indicated that carbon concerns were moving back up the corporate agenda here.

There was a comment from the floor that the comparison between what is served from private cloud and what is consumed from public is not so much unfair is not relevant because the web giants such as Facebook, often have very uniform workloads, if variable demand, over their vast infrastructures. Individual organisations often have very varied workloads and demands, meaning that a like for like comparison is difficult and would not yield much insight.

This was elaborated on by a service provider who said that their customers were often highly variable in both density of kit in rack and row, and this often raised challenges in assessing needs. However, he added that customers invariably over estimate what they need.

One attendee recounted an experience whereby glass walls in a data centre, which had more to do with aesthetics than functionality, had led to issues with airflow and cooling, but that the real problem was power draw, as there were 4 additional CRAC units installed that were not envisaged at the outset.

Barro also made the point that data centre failures can have a significant impact reputationally, as well as on share price, as there is so much media focus on this.

Owen Wynne, contracts and engineering manager, eircom, recounted the company’s experience in designing and building a new data centre in a limited space in an existing facility in Blanchardstown, Dublin. Wynne said that the data centre had been part of a larger plan to consolidate 7 DCs into 2, serving core business functions, as opposed to customer facing. Future ready, as opposed to future proof, said Wynne, was a key aspect of the design, to ensure that anticipated business needs could be met as the modular design was kitted out with compute resources in a phased manner. This process informed by internal experience and partner expertise, he said, gave the company confidence that it would not end up in a “technology cul de sac”.

In conclusion, Barro said that his single piece of advice was to trust partners and leverage their expertise to ensure the best solution is chosen and implemented. Only when all the elements are brought together as a whole, he said, can an appropriate solution be created which best meets the needs of the business.

Kieran Kennedy, director, E-TEC Power Management, added that his parting advice was to focus on ‘right sizing’ to meet needs. Rather than being tempted to over-specify, Kennedy advised that organisations need to be realistic and pragmatic in design and specification, again leveraging the expertise of partners to ensure that capacities such as power, cooling, space and networking are commensurate with business needs.




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