New Challenges For Data Center Managers - InformationWeek

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9/22/2006
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New Challenges For Data Center Managers

You need to know about power, cooling, facilities management, real estate, security, and a host of other issues.

Running a data center has become a lot more complicated. Today, a data center manager needs to do more than just keep the computers, networks, and applications running. He or she must understand power pricing and availability, cooling technology, real estate, facilities management, security, compliance, and a host of other areas--along with the latest in IT--to serve the business.

"The world of the data center manager has drastically changed," says Jill Eckhaus, president and chair of AFCOM, an organization of data center professionals. "With the look and feel of the data center changing so rapidly, you practically need a crystal ball to determine where to go next."

Data Center Tip Sheet
Data Center Tip Sheet
FEWER AND BIGGER Larger systems are more efficient than multiple smaller systems
POWER TALK Find out how much power is available in your area and get detailed records of usage by your data center
LOCATION COUNTS When picking a site, look for favorable power pricing and availability
COOL DOWN Consider directly attached and liquid cooling modules for specific hot spots
VIRTUALIZE CAUTIOUSLY Some apps don't virtualize, and some license agreements won't let you save money
Data centers are the most expensive real estate that most businesses own. The price tag for a new 50,000-square-foot data center with 40 watts of power per square foot is around $20 million, says Bruce Shaw, VP of worldwide commercial and enterprise marketing for chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices. By 2010, he estimates that price could jump more than 1,000%.

"We have a problem, but most people haven't felt the full impact of this wave," Shaw said at the recent Data Center World conference in Orlando, Fla. "And I'm part of the problem."

AMD's chips power servers that gobble up vast quantities of electricity and require even more power to run the cooling systems to keep the data center and its systems from overheating. Servers consume between 38% and 63% of the power budget in most data centers, followed by air conditioners, which eat up 23% to 54%, Shaw said. In an AMD survey of more than 1,000 data center executives, 21% say they have rack space that's going unused because of power consumption and cooling concerns.

Finding space to expand a center or build a new one is another problem. Many businesses want a backup data center for disaster recovery and business continuity that's within 300 miles of their primary data center, but finding that space is nearly impossible. Along the metro corridor between New York and Washington, D.C., there isn't space for new centers or even co-location space in existing centers larger than 4,000 square feet.

Businesses are coping by consolidating and virtualizing servers, packing more computing power into a smaller footprint--sometimes half the size. They're also deploying servers with more powerful and energy-efficient chips. A server with processors using 130 to 150 watts, for example, can be replaced with a dual-core server operating at 68 or 95 watts. And hardware-assisted virtualization tech- nology in the processors makes it easier to run multiple operating systems on a single server.

Yet heat and power loads are still increasing. In 2000, the average server rack used 2 kilowatts; in 2006, that rose to about 24 kilowatts in a blade server rack, says Peter Panfil, VP of power engineering for Liebert, which makes power systems, and it's expected to increase to as much as 40 kilowatts by 2009.

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