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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.

Look for duplicate data in your storage arrays. Jason Kutticherry, vice president of data center planning at Citigroup, says the company has made a concerted effort to reduce its storage footprint, saving on data center floor space, power and cooling. A key technology for this has been data deduplication, which keeps an eye out for duplication of files and, in some cases, data within files.

"As a financial institution, we store a lot of data, so we want to make sure we're not adding to the burden by saving multiple copies," he says. Using deduplication consistently has helped the company reclaim storage at a fast enough rate that it has avoided unnecessary buildouts of storage arrays.

Push your developers to use effective coding. While this advice might seem unrelated to the life of a data center manager, Kutticherry insists that inefficient coding can have a tremendous impact on data center resources. Applications that are poorly coded force servers to work harder, consume far more processing power and add to the overall number of needed servers. "Ensure your developers are using the tightest code they can so that applications are most effective," he says.

Data center managers should also require developers to use common databases and not the custom variety. "Again, it makes for a more optimized computing environment and reduces the strain on hardware and software," he adds.

Rearrange the furniture. If floor space is your nemesis, consider moving IT equipment around. "What typically happens in most data centers is that once built and commissioned to a certain design specification, new equipment is added over the ensuing years with consideration to cabling and cooling requirements rather than an optimal floor layout," Gartner's Kumar says.

He urges IT teams to review layouts every three to five years and use available tools such as computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analysis, which models proper airflow, or those available from equipment vendors to redraw floor plans. "While a CFD can be expensive at around $30,000, gaining a few more years from your data center makes it worthwhile," he argues.

He also points to pace-layering, a design technique used to organize data centers in an optimal manner where different pieces evolve at different speeds, or phases. So, in other words, the Web servers need to be managed differently from, say, tier-1 storage.

Analyze your energy efficiency. A CFD, in addition to helping to map floor space, is a useful tool for energy efficiency. Too often, companies overload certain areas of the data center with equipment, creating hotspots that max out power and cooling, Kumar says. By analyzing the data center's temperature, you can potentially delay the expense of larger air conditioners and increased power supplies. A simple repositioning of racks or equipment could buy you years with your data center, he says.


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