High-Density, But Low (or No) Tracking

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A surprising number of data center operators are using blade servers in high-density installations, but not tracking the power density in their racks, according to a new study from Aperture. Roughly 21% of data center operators said they did not know the maximum power density of their racks, according to the survey of 100 Aperture customers and prospects, which found that 8% of high-density users weren’t certain how much power their racks were using, a serious weakness in data center management.

“It was startling to us how many people are using high density blade servers but aren’t tracking them,” said Steve Yellen, Vice President of Marketing for Aperture. “Effectively, a lot of people are operating without a net. When 20 percent of the companies don’t know what they’re running, they can’t really know if they’ll have enough capacity for the next 12 to 20 months – which is how long it takes to build a new data center.”

The companies that participated in the study operate between 600 and 1,000 data centers, and about two-thirds of them have at least $1 billion in annual revenue, according to Yellen. As a provider of data center management software, Aperture has a business interest in increased use of tracking and monitoring in these facilities. But Yellen said the survey results also highlight lingering problems from a cultural divide in many American corporations.


“Most organizations today are still running data centers built in 2001 or 2002 or even earlier,” said Yellen. “The people running the data center reporting were reporting up to the facilities manager, and not to IT. There was a wall built between those two groups. Now with blades being required from the IT side, it’s become a problem. Companies are bringing facilities (staff) into IT operations. These guys traditionally did not work the same way IT did. They were typically less mature. Now they have to think the same, talk the same and work the same.”

That means keeping track of more blade servers. More than 87% of the respondents in the Aperture survey reported using blade servers in their data centers. Of those, only 27% are making a “significant commitment” to blades by purchasing them for more than 20% of their new server deployments, compared to 35% of respondents for whom blades represented less than 5% of new servers.

“Almost 90% of companies have blades, but they’re all over the map in how they’re using them,” said Yellen.

The survey found that 6.8% of users reported an average power density higher than 18 kW per rack in their data center, with 8.7% reporting loads of 13 to 18 kW per rack. Most respondents believe they can handle even higher loads, with 15.5% citing a potential maximum power density per rack of at least 18 kW and 5.8% claiming the ability to manage 30 kW per rack or more. Then there are the 21.4% who say they have no idea of the maximum power density their racks can handle.

Yellen doesn’t believe this level of unmonitored racks will persist for much longer. “The environment is changing in the data center,” he said. “People used to be able to get away with managing the data center with less mature processes. That’s not the case anymore.”

About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.