Gartner: Data Center Problems Ahead

Energy, staffing, and hardware costs lead the list of worsening challenges facing data center managers, research firm says.

Antone Gonsalves, Contributor

November 25, 2009

3 Min Read

Managing a data center is going to get harder in 2010.

That's according to researcher Gartner, which says problems associated with energy, space, and technology are set to worsen. As a result, IT managers would be smart to start looking for pragmatic ways to deal with the growing challenges.

"Energy costs are the fastest-rising cost element in the data center portfolio, and yet data center managers are still not paying sufficient attention to the process of measuring, monitoring, and modeling energy use in data centers," Gartner researcher Rakesh Kumar said in a statement. "They need to realize that removing a single x86 server from a data center will result in savings of more than $400 a year in energy costs alone."

To help IT managers with the challenges they face, Gartner has identified critical areas that need to be addressed.

The first is establishing a standardized way to break down data center costs. Gartner advises IT managers to define a chart of accounts that specifies the cost elements constituting the overall cost and the key categories that comprise that cost.

Gartner then offers these tips for cutting costs:

  • Rationalize hardware. Underutilized or old systems should be taken out, and workloads should be shifted to more-efficient hardware. Rationalization and consolidation programs can lead to a 5% to 20% reduction in the number of servers deployed.

  • Consolidate data center sites. Financial savings often follow consolidation of multiple sites into a small number of larger sites.

  • Manage energy and facilities cost. Tools and techniques include raising the temperature of the data center to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, using outside air when possible as an alternative to air conditioning, setting up hot aisle/cold aisle configurations and deploying server-based energy management software tools to run workloads the most energy-efficient way

  • Manage the people costs. Workers remain the single largest cost element for most data centers, accounting for as much as 40% of overall costs.

  • And avoid needless procurement of new assets. Servers' useful life often exceeds their amortized life, so monitor the condition of hardware carefully.

The research firm also advises making the measurement of energy efficiency a high priority. Advanced monitoring, modeling, and measuring techniques and processes are essential to the adoption of many new technologies and adherence to government policies.

Gartner also lists several tips for refurbishing a data center. First is evaluating the location of the facility. Labor rates and the cost of energy need to be weighed against security risks.

Next, the size of the site has to be measured against whether it can accommodate growth. A refurbished site must provide at least five years of capacity, including physical, electrical and networking, to make the project worthwhile.

Finally, in determining whether a data center overhaul is necessary, companies need to look carefully at the technical problems of integrating new components into an existing facility. They should also determine whether it is possible to keep the data center running while renovations are underway.

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