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Extending the life of your data center

Sandra Gittlen | Oct. 12, 2011
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the 1,200-square-foot data center at the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering.

When in doubt, move it out

If all else fails and it looks like you are going to bump up against data center capacity, don't be afraid to move servers, software or storage off-site. Options abound for taking up the slack, and they might even give you just enough leeway to eke several more years from your current data center.

Here are some options:

Head to the cloud. Companies like Amazon, HP, IBM and Oracle all offer cloud-based services that enable bursts in computing capacity when needed. For instance, if you have a seasonal project that would push your internal data center to its limits infrastructure-wise, you can temporarily contract server resources from a provider. This will meet your short-term needs without forcing a long-term investment.

Roll in a pod. If building out or relocating your data center is out of the question for your organization, a pod just might be the answer. Cisco, HP and Silicon Graphics International are among vendors offering portable data centers. These self-contained units can boost your overall capacity without the expense of a massive construction project.

Say hello to co-lo. Colocation is nothing new in the world of data centers. However, it can be your best friend when trying to avoid an overhaul of your existing site. By transferring some of your infrastructure to a provider's site, you can free up valuable floor space, power and cooling, but still maintain control of your hardware and software.

What you're likely to turn up: Some 5% to 10% of hardware devices are either switched off or are maintaining a single, rarely used application, according to Kumar. Falling back to the reality that servers consume energy and other resources at any utilization rate, either trash the application or virtualize it and retire or reuse the hardware.

"You have to make sure that every piece of hardware in your data center is doing productive work," he says.

At international financial conglomerate Citigroup, uncovering little-used applications is a regular exercise among the company's 14 data centers (the oldest has been in use for 20 years).

"Over the years, things get lost. Not only do we use asset management tools, but we also physically walk around the data center to make sure each device has a purpose," says Jack Glass, Citigroup's director of data center planning. He warns, though, to consult with applications teams before unplugging anything.

Glass agrees if a low-utilized application is consuming hardware resources, it should be virtualized. "Virtualization is definitely our standard here. If it can't be decommissioned, then, where possible, it gets virtualized," he says.

Contain test and development sprawl. IT leaders concur that most test and development folks will consume whatever resources you offer them and, therefore, must be carefully monitored. In fact, Citigroup's Glass says, he often finds abandoned or concluded test and development projects during his utilization reviews. Kossuth uses a proactive strategy to ensure that test and development efforts don't overtake her data center. She ropes off an area of the data center complete with server and storage resources as a sandbox. Usage is carefully monitored and when projects end, resources are immediately reabsorbed. She calls it a way to protect the data center without stifling innovation.


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