Data Center : Power Horses for Demanding Enterprises

Managing Power in Data Centers

Power Management in Data Centers

Building an Ideal Data Center

Towards lower power and increased business outputs

Over the past couple of years, the number of data centers have increased considerably, and the trend is likely to continue in the coming years. Data centers will become bigger and more critical for businesses, thereby requiring much better technologies to ensure their uptime. The future will see better technologies emerge to handle the power, cooling, and the ever-increasing amount of equipment inside data centers. Data centers will themselves become even more powerful with multi-core servers, consolidated storage, and technologies to provide better asset management and dynamic resource allocation, such as virtualization and cloud computing.

New cooling technologies
The hardware in the data center is becoming so compact that its number per sq/m has increased exponentially leading to generation of more and more heat. This in turn demands new cooling methodology in this new age data center.

In earlier days, air conditioning systems were used to cool the entire data center. However, increasing the number of AC devices doesn't really solve the problem, rather increases the power consumption. What matters is intelligent cooling that means greater efficiency with lesser cost. New trends in this arena include closed coupled cooling, variable fan speed, air containment and liquid cooling.

The closed coupled cooling means bringing the cooling source as close as possible to the hardware which is dissipating heat. This method can be implemented in two different ways, cooling the entire rack (i.e. rack-cooling) and row based cooling, which means cooling the hardware in each row of the rack separately. This technology helps in capturing the hot air directly at the source and cooling it down immediately.

Alongside to close coupled cooling, variable fan speed also helps in conserving the energy. As the load on the server varies a lot, the cooling required by each of these servers also varies,which makes the variable fan speed technology worth using.

Since air-cooling doesn't seem to fulfil the need at high dense computing part of your data center, hence came liquid cooling. It is a good option, as it carries double the heat carried by the air and is quiet as compared to air-cooling solutions. This solution can be used in closed cabinets, where the cooling pipes run around the whole rack. The liquid used can be any liquid refrigerant or water that is soft, deionised and distilled.

Better designs
While designing a data center, one has to keep in mind the challenges that come across, such as the standards, ease of move within data center, scalability and flexibility. An inappropriate data center design will lead you to inefficient and complex management of power, racks, cable and cooling. So to optimize the power and cooling inside the data center, you have to follow systematic approach to planning and design.

More than 50% of the power inside the data center is consumed by non-IT equipments such as fan and cooling devices, for previous data centers were poorly designed. As the number of data centers are scaling up in enterprises, newer ways are coming in to manage them. In earlier days, it was 2 inch deeper tray, but now 4 inch tray is being used to carry the increased number and dense cables.

Steel that was used to make these trays has now been overrun by aluminium for better cost and weight. Now the cable management products are designed to accommodate more cables irrespective of media i.e. fiber or copper.

Virtualized data centers
Virtualization is the most talked about topic these days. Why? Because it proved itself the best to downsize cost and space requirements in a data centres. Vendors are working on easy and efficient management of virtual infrastructures in a data center, which includes recovery, backup, migration of virtual machines, etc.

Another technology that is becoming common in the arena of data center is cloud computing, which, in other words can be stated as a virtual data center. This can be better explained as the entire IT infrastructure becoming available to you as a service. For example if you need 1 TB of storage then you can request the same space from the cloud which is a hosted data center by XYZ. If you you require more than 500 GB, then you just need to upgrade your infrastructure
virtually which takes a couple of minutes.

24x7 demand
With the increase in business demand, enterprises are considering storing data at a central location, so that the data can be managed and shared between branch offices or clients globally and easily. Applications are becoming centralized and technologies to stream them to users are increasing in popularity.

In case of any catastrophe, back up of the data center is a must. Lots of vendors are building up software which can back up data much faster and then compress them to save space. Availability is also a factor that has to be taken into account. Most organizations are building up a secondary data center to maintain
the continuity in case of any disaster strikes on the primary data center. Most enterprises have their secondary data center situated approximately 200 miles from the primary data center.

Due to the increasing cost of infrastructure, organizations are looking forward to centralizing their data center to cut cost. This would require less management cost as compared to decentralized data center. Moreover, the WAN architecture is gaining momentum which makes the backup process or remote management of centralized data center easier and faster.

More powerful servers
As the power consumption in data centers is increasing, vendors are focusing on less power consuming server. Instead of buying two different servers, now organizations go for one powerful server with virtualization capabilities i.e. Intel-VT or AMD-V .

Blades are good to be used in a data center as it saves on both power and space. Due to its compact structure, it is opted by many organization, but blade is not the only one in the run.

Recently, we reviewd a 24 core Dunnignton server (November 2008 PCQuest) which is an example of future server in data centers. This server has 4 processors with 6 cores each, and is meant mainly for virtualization or cloud computing solutions.

In near future, we will be seeing more powerful servers with more number of processors and cores per processor.

But server vendors should keep power consumption in mind before desi-gning.

Unified data center
It means that any storage system enables management of different storage devices from a single console. As the growth in data center is much more compared to earlier years, multiple storage devices are found inside data centers. However, managing them is a great pain as there are separate management consoles to manage those devices. For example, earlier you had tape drive management solution which only allows you to manage tape drives only or only HDD and not both. Both need separate pool to be installed inside data center.

Now enterprises are looking for a unified solution which can help managing them from a single console easily. Recently Sun launched 'Sun Unified Storage System' which allows you to build a hybrid storage pool that might consists of DRAM, SSD's and HDD in the same system. The best thing is that you can manage all these devices from a single console. It is said that, it will increase the performance and cut down the power consumption by 80% compared to spinning disk.

Apart from cloud computing, there are modular data center which can be deployed virtually anywhere. You don't need any specialized room, cooling, raised floor, etc to deploy it. This kind of solution is specially targeted to those who are in immediate need of a data center and don't have time to build it from scratch. This solution is ideal for enterprises ready to deploy new data center at some remote place with no infrastructure available. Such solutions are more customizable,
and you can decide upon your investment and kind of configuration you require.

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