Winning the Data Center Marathon

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How to learn from marathon runners when planning the capacity of your data center.

Schneider Electric sponsors the annual marathon in Paris. Even though I’m not going to participate myself, I think there are some lessons to be learned from the way marathon runners train for their run.

If you’re planning on being a successful marathon runner, one of the first things you’re advised to do is finding your stride. Short strides waste energy and cover less distance, while an over-reaching stride will fatigue your muscles. In other words, it’s all about selecting the right level of capacity.

The same goes for the capacity of a data center. Opt for too little capacity and you’ll be constrained in how much you can deploy to it and may face an expensive rebuild; opt for too much capacity, and you’ll see your power bill go up and your energy efficiency go down. Here are three tips for designing your data center for the correct capacity.

1. Look at the costs

Traditionally, the uptime of a service is determined by the service’s criticality. This does, however, tend to result in very high demands, leading to high capacity requirements and high cost. A second level of evaluation should be added, to double check if the business value of the service actually exceeds the cost of running the service. This is known as activity based costing.

2. Plan for virtualization

Virtualization is one of the major data center trends leading to excess capacity, as the servers become fewer but bigger. According to a Gartner study, 75 per cent of all servers will be virtualized by 2015.

3. Think about hardware refresh

When planning ahead for the future capacity needs of the data center, it is usually assumed that increased demand for computing automatically also increases the demand for power and cooling. As hardware is usually replaced every three to five years, and each new hardware generation provides more computing and more storage for the same amount of power, the demand for power and cooling in many data centers may actually be decreasing.

Another option is simply to try to squeeze more out of the data center capacity you already have. In that case, I advise you to look at the 7 tips for an aging data center proposed by Bob Wooley.

Are you ready for the marathon?


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