IT Focus Area: infrastructure operations
October 6, 2015
3 Teams Critical to Your Data Center's Success
The average U.S. data center is 18 years old.
This means that many enterprises rely on facilities that were designed for mainframes, Windows 95 and 28.8k modems.
These aging data centers are inefficient, prone to outages and very costly to upgrade. However, enterprises don’t want to invest their limited capital expenditures (CAPEX) in building new facilities. That’s why they’re moving away from owning and operating their own data centers.
Instead, they’re turning to colocation providers. This allows enterprises to focus on their core business while someone else operates their data centers. They gain benefits such as increased agility and security — along with improved availability due to redundant power and network access. Through colocation data centers, enterprises can also use cloud services to cut costs and improve their speed to market.
There are two colocation data center models: wholesale and retail.
In the wholesale model, you lease data center space that is fully customized to your specifications. You may prefer this model if you have large-scale space and power requirements.
In the retail model, you lease a small amount of space within a data center. This space can be inside a rack, cabinet or suite. Retail providers can help you transition to the cloud through services such as PaaS, ITaaS and cloud-based backups.
Since the data center touches all aspects of your business, one team shouldn’t take sole responsibility for it. Your IT, Facilities and Real Estate teams must work together to select the right colocation facility. If you don’t have a dedicated data center management structure, you may face “head-butting” between Facilities and IT.
The problem with data center floor space
Corporate real estate brokers are more familiar with the wholesale data center model than the retail data center model. They sell data center space by square footage (such as in 5,000- or 10,000-square-feet increments).
However, this isn’t the most efficient way to select a data center provider.
Power — not floor space — is now the primary driver for provider selection. If your broker thinks of your data center in terms of real estate space only, they won’t be able to do the proper due diligence for your company.
Optimizing your data center is no longer about floor space but about how much power density you have in your cabinets.
Converged infrastructures have high-density equipment that demand more power and cooling. Low-density colocation data centers may only provide 3 to 4 kilowatts per cabinet, while a high-density data center provides around 12 kilowatts per cabinet.
It may seem like colocation providers who offer high-power densities are more expensive, as your dollars buy less physical space. However, you’ll gain efficiencies that are not available from low-density data center providers.
In a high-density data center, you’ll need fewer cabinets, power strips, power whips and infrastructure cabling. With everything listed above, each cabinet ends up costing between $10,000 and $12,000. In addition, reducing your IT footprint will lower your Monthly Recurring Costs (MRC). This can give you six-figure savings over the duration of your contract. Your savings can add up fast when you eliminate unnecessary cabinets.
Companies with larger IT environments (10,000+ sq. ft. and 1 megawatt) may prefer the wholesale model to constructing their own data center facility. A wholesale model allows you to reduce the CAPEX needed to build your own facility. It also reduces your implementation schedule and allows you to move the operations and maintenance of your critical system infrastructure to your wholesale provider.
However, selecting a wholesale solution requires significant planning to ensure that you do not oversubscribe to and overspend on power. Wholesale real estate contracts can have costly charges for additional power, so it is critical to negotiate flexible terms that will allow for growth. If you don’t do this, you may oversubscribe for power and pay two to four times more than what you expected to pay when you signed your contract. Also consider that most wholesale providers are in the real estate business, not the IT business. Therefore, they tend to have limited IT service offerings (i.e Paas, IaaS, etc.).
To ensure that you subscribe to the right power density, your Real Estate team should understand the IT and Facilities teams’ requirements and projected growth.
What your real estate team should know
Before they look at your data center requirements, your Real Estate team should speak with IT and Facilities. Real Estate needs concise information about your requirements, so they can be informed when they speak with data center brokers. You can conduct a power assessment to give all teams an understanding of your overall power and cooling needs.
You should also conduct a data center strategy that outlines your five-year roadmap. This will help all parties understand how your IT environment is projected to evolve over the duration of the contract. The ultimate goal is not to find data center space but to find a provider that aligns with your business and IT objectives.
How to improve communications between IT and facilities
Many enterprises don’t have enough communication between their IT and Facilities teams. If IT and Facilities fail to communicate, you can run into roadblocks when you upgrade your data center internally.
For example, IT may want to add a new cabinet but fail to properly convey to Facilities why they need it. Facilities may know of another cabinet already on the floor that has available space and power, but since Facilities doesn’t know IT’s motivation, they may blindly approve the request. This results in stranded power capacity and unused data center space. It also results in unnecessary CAPEX spending for the new cabinet and its infrastructure (e.g. power whips, PDUs, fiber trunks, etc.).
If these teams communicated, they would both know the purpose of the new equipment and they could decide together if an additional cabinet is necessary.
3 ways to improve communication between IT and facilities
Create a cost matrix that outlines the financial implications of an IT request. This helps both teams understand the business reasons why you are buying new equipment, which will result in additional space and power.
Create a change management committee that includes both Facilities and IT. This committee can review all proposed changes and modifications to your data center.
Hold weekly update meetings where you discuss current and upcoming projects. This helps you align your goals, as well as plan for the future.
Working together can help you prepare for growth and drive more value
Your IT, Facilities and Real Estate teams are all critical to the success of your data center. If you leave one of these groups out, you may oversubscribe for services or miss a key requirement. When they work together, you can optimize your data center and align it with your long-term business strategy. This helps you prepare for growth and drive more value from your IT.