News

Better Understanding Your Data Center Communications, Due Diligence & Planning Help
February 09, 2007

By Staff
Appeared in Processor

Data centers are seeing a phenomenal shift with the amount of data, equipment, and enterprise storage requirements they must accommodate to meet ever-changing business requirements and compliance programs such as Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPAA.

Gaining a handle on your data center dynamics, including airflow, electrical power, and cooling, is crucial to gaining a handle on costs and technical issues you may encounter as you plan budgets and project plans to support your SME’s business.

Realizing The Current & Future State Of Your Data Center
Cyrus Izzo, senior vice president and national critical facilities director for Syska Hennessy Group (www.syska.com), a top national and international engineering and construction firm, advises SME data center managers to, “First, take a look at where they are and where they want to be and plan for the future state.” Looking at the current state means you need to document your data center infrastructure, including Internet connectivity, electrical power, and facilities.

According to Izzo, matching to the future state requires realizing trends and the growth curve of your data center. He says, “SMBs are going to have a bit more of a difficult time in predicting their future.” Thus, SMEs need to align the IT department with the business to best gauge the future. The first step to making this alignment is to open a dialogue with the business side that uses IT’s applications and plan for how IT can support the growth of the business.

Today’s higher density of equipment in the same data center space spells one of the greater challenges to better understanding data center dynamics, including electricity, heating, and cooling.

Sam Rizzo, vice president of facilities engineering for SunGard Availability Services (www.availability.sungard.com), a leading provider of information availability services, also emphasizes managing changes in the data center because the rise of infrastructure costs can offset productivity cost savings. This means that as you can fit more equipment into the same space, the costs to power and cool are going to rise incrementally.

There are tools available for better understanding the heating, cooling, and related infrastructure of the corporate data center, including network modeling tools such as OPNET ACE (Application Characterization Environment; www.opnet.com) and CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) modeling tools such as Fluent FloWizard (www.fluent.com), which can provide insightful models and simulations of your network and facilities environment. However, these tools require a large expense of both money and learning curve to get up and running. Moreover, Izzo notes, “The data coming out is as good as the data going in,” which speaks to the niche these tools hold that put them out of reach for the average SME because it lacks the domain expertise to exploit the power of these modeling tools to support building out the data center.

If analyzing the current state of your data center is outside your data center team’s current resources, then outside consultants such as Syska Hennessy Group or a local consultancy can help establish a benchmark for your data center and help determine gaps in your data center, including costs for new technologies. Syska Hennessy Group uses a “critical facilities balance sheet” when surveying a customer’s data center. The sheet includes industry benchmarks for electrical power, cooling, and infrastructure, and consultants use the sheet to understand gaps in the data center, which when remedied can heighten overall data center reliability. You can create your own critical facilities balance sheet by researching some of the standard metrics in your industry and rounding out the balance sheet with your own internal goals and benchmarks.

Due Diligence, Analysis & Your Data Center Dynamics
“It all starts and stops with electricity,” according to Sungard’s Rizzo, who stresses how important it is that data center managers understand how electricity from their local power substations feeds into their data centers to the plugs on the racks. This holistic view of electricity is integral to understanding the interrelationship of your power and cooling requirements by determining how power is delivered into your facility, including capacity and reliability.

While you and your data center staff can find better understanding of your data center dynamics through capturing pictures of the data center’s current state and its future state, your analysis and due diligence need to consider data center design for the actual technology being installed and planned, power and cooling scenarios for steady state and recovery, modular planning for future cooling and power capacity, and the density vs. floor space cost trade-off for your environment. Collaborating with your facilities staff and building management can draw together building schematics, an audit trail of utilities spending, and network/server rack build out documentation that can paint a picture of your current data center, including the facility. You can then add in future technology and growth requirements to estimate the future state of your data center.

Rizzo recommends the establishment of a best practices team that brings together stakeholders from IT, applications development, and facilities to better manage data center growth and change. However, he is quick to point out that such a cross-functional team needs executive-level sponsorship at its chartering to be effective dealing with data center growth and changes.

Analyzing & Communicating Your Data Center Dynamics
You need to communicate to management your understanding of the data center and facilities like a balance sheet by spelling out the potential dollars lost to data center time broken down by the hour. You should include any service-level agreement financial penalties and estimations of direct revenue lost for scenarios where clients can’t access systems and client communications are cut so business transactions halt. Indirect costs due to customer dissatisfaction should also be on this balance sheet. Acceptable risk is another topic of conversation with the business side and gives an underlying theme of mission-critical IT being in lockstep with the mission-critical business.

While a software solution may be out of reach for some SMEs for better grasping data center dynamics—due diligence, aligning the data center/IT growth plans with the business, and developing co-efficiencies can turn a better understanding of data center dynamics into cost savings.