IT Focus Area: infrastructure operations
October 13, 2015
10 Trends that Will Impact Your Data Center in 2016
Editor's Note: Sirius and Forsythe are now one company. Sirius acquired Forsythe in October 2017 and we are pleased to share their exceptional thought leadership with you.
Enterprises are getting out of the data center business.
IT leaders and financial directors are realizing that owning, operating and maintaining a data center may not be the best use of their resources. With the average U.S. data center approaching 20 years of age, enterprises simply don’t want to deal with outdated facilities and building systems infrastructure.
A recent survey by 451 Research found that most organizations will close their smaller, local data centers and server rooms within the next two years.
Instead, organizations are turning to the cloud and data center colocation providers. A colocation facility makes it possible to adopt a hybrid data center model. This allows organizations to run legacy, private cloud and public cloud infrastructures.
Partnering with a colocation provider can offer greater agility, security and reliability — not to mention reduced capital expenditures (CAPEX) and operational expenditures (OPEX), along with the ability to quickly scale.
10 Trends Impacting the Data Center
If you’re considering partnering with a colocation provider, here are some data center trends that can impact your decision:
1. Higher Power Density
By 2020, U.S. data centers will require six times the electricity of New York City.
Since the average U.S. data center is approaching 20 years of age, most existing data center facilities can’t meet today’s power demands. Trying to run higher power density technologies in an aging data center usually takes significant capital investments – if it can even be accomplished. Lower-density data centers also require you to procure additional IT cabinets and their associated infrastructure (power whips, power strips, patch panels, etc.). This added cost is due to the inability of lower-density data centers to provide enough power on a per-cabinet basis to make total use of every cabinet’s vertical rack space.
Most cabinets in low-density data centers are built to handle only 4 to 5kW of critical power. With today’s converged infrastructures, it’s very easy for just one IT device to consume this much power. This will leave the vast majority of your cabinet empty and unable to accommodate additional IT equipment — a huge waste of financial resources!
You have the opportunity to reduce your costs and improve your performance if you move to a facility that accommodates higher density.
In a higher-density data center, you may end up requiring just half of the space that you would require at a lower-density facility. If you upgrade your technology and increase your power density, you can support the same amount of equipment with fewer cabinets. This allows you to improve your efficiencies and power usage effectiveness (PUE), significantly lowering your capital and operational costs.
Many data centers say they can accommodate higher power densities. However, they usually need to make upgrades to your services to do this. This will add to your costs.
The move towards multi-tenant and hosted data center facilities is creating a need for greater security. This is because sharing your physical and network infrastructure with other tenants might put your data at risk.
While many IT conversations focus on cyber security, your data center’s physical security is also critical. Authorized personnel and vendors are often the source of security breaches – just think of the recent breaches at Target and Ashley Madison.
Moving to a colocation data center with strong physical security not only prevents unauthorized access but also keeps your data in compliance with your industry’s regulations.
Many colocation data centers are beefing up their physical, building infrastructure and logical security. For example, they are adding more cameras and physical security checkpoints. They are also redesigning their command centers — looking at how the room is set up, what tasks they can perform from it, who can access it and how easy it is to see into it. Built-in redundancy also has a security benefit — no downtime means no loss of business or your reputation.
A few years ago, it wasn’t critical for your colocation provider to have Uptime Institute certification. With increased demands from customers who are “always on” and want to do business with you 24/7, this certification matters.
Be wary of data centers that don’t have the actual certification. Often data centers will claim they are designed to the Uptime compliance standards without having the actual stamp of approval. After all, would you buy a home that wasn't inspected during construction and did not meet National Electrical Code standards? Knowing that your data center meets the requirements and is verified by the Uptime Institute will allay fears from senior leaders, the board and employees. It will also set proper expectations to the business around availability, redundancy and uptime.
Although there are approximately 10,000 data centers in the U.S., only 44 currently have a Tier III constructed facility certification. Meanwhile, only 4 U.S. data centers are Tier IV certified.
Your RFPs should ask: Are you certified? If so, what Uptime Institute certification level do you have?
You may also want to consider other compliance requirements based on your industry such as Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and PCI Security Standards. Can your provider ensure that you comply with these regulations? Can your colocation provider withstand an audit on your behalf? Do they use a change management tool to manage every facet of their business operations?
When selecting a colocation provider, it’s vital to have an in-depth understanding of your compliance requirements and security risks. Conduct a vulnerability assessment to identify your areas of weakness and ways you can address them. When you understand your risks, you can make the best use out of your limited security budget.
In today’s rapidly changing IT environment, it’s impossible to know what you will need a few years down the road. You don’t want to say “no” to new business, because your technology cannot support new demand.
It’s vital to select a colocation provider who can evolve with you — without requiring you to make significant changes to your contract, IT environment, data center space, and building systems. The ability to grow your data center space without a lot of work is important, as it helps ensure your IT environment can grow while still operating.
Look for a provider who offers you flexibility, so you can easily scale. For example, you may want to add 500 or 1,000 square feet of space. Is it easy and cost efficient to add space or does it take a lot of work? Another example is that you will want to work with a provider that will let you increase your power and grow vertically within the cabinets. This allows you to take advantage of higher power densities without purchasing additional floor space and requiring capital to fund new cabinet infrastructure.
Also find out if the facility is designed for a higher-density environment or if they need to make special accommodations to support a high-density equipment load.
5. Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) Systems
A DCIM system gives you an in-depth understanding of what’s happening in your environment, so you can better manage it. Most DCIM systems offer dashboards, so you can see what’s happening in your data center in real time. For example, a DCIM system can turn data points into useful planning and analysis information. You can monitor your DCIM system to gain insights into one suite or your entire facility.
An Emerson Network Power and Ponemon study found that data center managers who implement DCIM experience 2.5 times less downtime than the industry average.
“DCIM gives insight into your assets, so you know what’s critical,” says Peter Panfil, Vice President, Global Power, Emerson Network Power. Without this information, you must assume that everything is critical and you will overspend on systems power and maintenance.”
Today, IT team resources are managed according to how much power a cabinet uses in addition to the overall cost of IT equipment and availability. It's all part of IT’s competitive advantage. If your total IT spend is significantly higher than your competitor, you are at a competitive disadvantage.
DCIM is the "stethoscope" for measuring your efficiency and is critical to optimizing your data center’s performance. By setting parameters for total watts of operation measured against total watts drawn by your IT equipment, you can measure your power usage effectiveness (PUE). With DCIM in place, you can also tell when improvements to your infrastructure or environment will reduce your operating costs.
DCIM allows you to be proactive in managing space and power. For example, DCIM can show you how much power each cabinet is using, so you can quickly identify oversubscribed cabinet distribution units (CDUs) and remove a potential outage if you lose your redundant power supply. DCIM is also valuable in a high-density environment, as you can see if you have the opportunity to restack your IT equipment to optimize cabinet "U" space utilization.
Gaining an in-depth view of your IT environment can also help you plan for growth. For example, you can use your DCIM insights to identify equipment that needs to be refreshed or retired.
IT organizations are moving away from a project-by-project approach, where they tie up resources to build components for one-time use. Instead, they’re providing catalogs of standardized IT services. Standardization allows you to take a new approach when managing your IT infrastructure: the hybrid data center.
With a hybrid data center, you can run IT services both on premises and in the cloud. This gives you the speed you need to standardize your IT services, so you can deliver them quickly and at lower costs. It will also help with security. By reducing the diversity of technologies in your environment, you can standardize your security processes. The root cause of many security breaches is a failure with IT operations – not a security failure.
The key is developing a highly sophisticated, mature hybrid data center model that can support or drive business transformation. Based on your business goals, your hybrid data center will need to change and be adaptable.
Standardizing your IT services also makes it possible to standardize your supporting infrastructure. For example, you can find opportunities to consolidate your equipment or reduce your maintenance costs. You’ll also gain a better understanding of your capacity, power and cooling needs.
7. The IT and Facilities Divide
In many enterprises, the IT and facilities teams work separately with little communication between them.
This leads to conflicts between the IT organization, the chief information officer (CIO) and the facilities vice president or director about who owns the data center. It also causes conflicts about who controls an IT project and who has the budget for it.
For example, the IT department almost never pays the data center’s electric bill, so they don’t see how their activities impact your power spend. Since they can’t see how much power they are using, they may play it safe and fail to enable power management options. This lack of insight gives IT organizations less incentive to operate the environment efficiently.
The gap between IT and facilities can result in slowed service deployment, unscheduled downtime, increased expenses, inefficient equipment, lower productivity and lost revenue.
In today’s 24/7 business world, the ability to transmit at lightning-fast speeds is critical. Customers expect on-demand access to services and don’t want to wait for pages to load or apps to function.
As you shift more of your workloads between data centers, you’ll need to get additional services from providers without huge costs or time delays.
To do this in the past, you needed to do a circuit-by-circuit installation. Now, you must pull hundreds of service providers between data centers in a fraction of a second. This lessens your dependence on individual providers. For example, instead of having more than 30 providers bring bandwidth to your data center on a one-off basis, you may need just 10 providers. This can lower your telecommunications costs and help you provision services faster.
When choosing a provider, make sure they can align with your data center and connectivity requirements. If your colocation provider doesn’t have your preferred telecommunications services, can they connect to a hub to get it? You don’t want your colocation provider to slow you down when you need to provide new services to the business. Built-in redundancy around connectivity is also important. Can the colocation provider assure no or little downtime?
Since an outage can impact millions of users and cost millions of dollars, even a short period of downtime can make headlines. North American businesses lose $26.5 billion each year due to IT downtime and data recovery.
However, you can’t always sacrifice your utilization rates for availability. You may need to quickly deploy servers to meet customer demands — without putting your availability at risk.
Many IT organizations are moving to an operational resiliency model to maximize their performance and gain 24/7 availability. Operational resiliency goes beyond traditional business continuity and disaster recovery. It requires IT leaders to work with other executives to implement a company-wide strategy. It considers both IT processes and business processes to help the entire company become more resilient.
10. Data Center Strategy
Today’s IT environments contain a mix of legacy, private cloud and public cloud infrastructures. A data center strategy that accounts for all of these infrastructures will offer you the greatest predictability. However, running systems both inside and outside of your enterprise makes your IT more complex.
The new data center strategy requires an integrated approach – along with alignment between your business and IT teams. When you align your goals, you can migrate to a hybrid data center that drives value for the business. You can also improve your agility, security and IT performance.
Data Centers are Not Created Equal
Although there are more than 1,500 colocation data centers across the United States, not all of them are created equal. Before you select a colocation provider, gain a clear understanding of your business and technology goals and requirements.
Your colocation provider should make it easy for you to scale in space and power. With technology changing so quickly, it’s hard to predict what you will need in the future. You don’t want your colocation provider to hold you back, as the costs of moving out of a data center are usually much greater than the costs of moving in.