The use of innovative technology, such as blade servers and virtualization, can decrease the amount of data center white space (the space used by computer cabinets) required but increase the need for infrastructure, thus creating challenges for data center designers. As a result, every new generation of technology brings facility and information technology managers closer together as they figure out how best to support the more efficient but power-hungry compact servers.
Blade servers can hold up to 42 servers per rack. What’s more, they can now run multiple platforms, thanks to virtualization. Whereas in the past a server might run at 8 or 10 percent of its capacity, using one specific type of software, today’s servers may run at 80 percent of their capacity, supporting several systems at the same time. These two advances mean that fewer racks packed with more servers and running at much higher capacities require more electricity for both power and cooling.
While the blade rack requires more power, it still saves the data center space and energy. Nevertheless, FM and IT managers must cope with the new density by installing a sufficient amount of power transformers and uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems, along with adequate cooling and air distribution capacity. At one time a robust data center ran on 500 kilowatts of power, but today’s equivalent needs 5,000 kilowatts. Clearly, more space and infrastructure are also needed to power and cool today’s computer cabinets.
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