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Decisions, decisions: Choices abound as data center architecture options expand

Esther Shein | Dec. 23, 2014
American Red Cross manages 40% of the U.S.'s blood supply, so stability, reliability and tight security are of paramount concern, says DeWayne Bell, vice president of IT infrastructure and engineering.

If Purdue Pharma expanded its data center, "we would have had to find a way to bring more power into the building," he explains, and "it would be a significant cost. So we were in a difficult spot, to say the least," he recalls. Some of the business concerns were the pace at which IT would be able to recover in the event of a disaster and the drive to lower infrastructure costs.

The company considered different options; among them, investing millions of dollars to build a new data center or completely reinvent how it was doing things and eliminate tape backup and server sprawl.

"After doing the business cases and evaluations, it became clear the better path was to reinvent" the company's two data centers — one at company headquarters and a disaster recovery site at one of its associated plants.

At the same time, Rayda was also concerned about the amount of time it would take to get new IT services to the company's 1,750 users in the U.S. "If everything is physical, obviously things take longer to procure and provision,'' he says.

Perdue Pharma had virtualized some of its servers already in a "cobbled-together solution that was very complex,'' Rayda says. IT decided to deploy VCE's Vblock to create a converged infrastructure and use VMware's vSphere for virtualization. After implementation, the number of servers running Oracle databases went from 49 down to eight. "The interesting thing is with the reduction to eight servers we were able to increase performance,'' he notes.

By virtualizing 95% of its applications, Purdue Pharma has seen a 75% reduction in the data center footprint at a savings of $9 million over five years in capital expenditures and $2.5 million in operational expenses for energy costs. There has also been a 50% reduction in capital IT expenses related to the hardware refresh, he says.

"So the net-net was better performance and higher availability with a fraction of the cost and management," Rayda says.

Current Analysis' Hill is a fan of the virtualization approach. "It's easy to manage that environment because the tools and resources have been time-tested," he says.

Deciding how to proceed

For companies trying to figure out their next move when it comes to data center considerations, Hill suggests starting by working backwards. You need to have a good understanding of your workloads and where the peaks and valleys are, as well as the ebbs and flows of your production environment, he says.

Once you've established your hardware requirements, you have to deal with power and cooling. Enterprises tend to have organically grown data centers with a mix of old and new technologies, Hill says. Among the challenges of building your own data center are the compression of hardware and a workload designed for four racks now fitting into one. "All of a sudden you have to deal with ... that one [high-capacity] rack rather than those four lower-capacity racks."


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