The description of a data center has almost always been preceded with ‘mission critical’, because that is the service it provides – the mission critical hardware and software where maximum uptime is required.
The data center is a fortress, dedicated to achieving maximum reliability at any cost. While reliability is still the key factor, the data center has evolved and advancements in the past several years have accelerated the pace of innovation.
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The changes that have come about have even altered the meaning of what constitutes a data center. To Google, Microsoft, or Yahoo it is a hyper-scale facility with tremendous innovation engineered into it. For consolidation projects, it means taking what they once considered to be data centers and bringing them into a small number of new, large-scale facilities. To others, the definition of a data center has been transformed by the advances in IT equipment that required more power, more cooling and a more advanced facility.
Efficiency and innovation have been driven into every aspect of the data center. Innovation for the data center changed the paradigm in many ways:
- Modular: A conceptual definition for a method of deploying components of, or a complete data center. Modularity implies a pre-packaged, sometimes manufactured module of data center components that through its standardized and pre-defined parameters enable scalability and a rapid delivery schedule.
- Cooling and Efficiency: Technologies for heat dissipation in the data center have progressed in products such as air and water economizers, but also in core architectural design. Google removed the chillers completely in their Belgium facility, HP used free cooling and an innovative airflow design in their Wynyard England data center, and several companies have used geothermal solutions. See the Data Center Energy Efficiency Guide for more tips on efficiency strategies and best practices.
- Power: When designing new data centers companies are incorporating efficient power distribution and reducing electrical transmission line power loss. Facebook and Vantage Data Centers built data centers next to utility substations. Vantage went one step further in their Santa Clara, California campus by purchasing the substation adjacent to the property. Data center integrations with smart grid and micro grid technologies have enabled smart power.
- DCIM (Data Center Infrastructure Management): Software that gives operational teams insights into various IT, energy and infrastructure components of the facility through a single interface.
At the center of these disruptive technologies and rapidly evolving computing and business models is the data center. Its ability to keep pace and align with business and IT strategies is the difference between being a burden to keep up with or the catalyst to empower. Executives looking at the data center should embrace the challenges presented by this growing complexity and present a data center strategy that adapts to changing business and IT models and delivers on a promise for existing and future needs. The data center is thought of as an IT asset and decision, but ultimately is a business decision.
Leveraging best practices and knowing available options, and more importantly what is feasible for your business is what will make a comprehensive and valuable data center strategy. Having knowledge of where the industry is and where it is headed will facilitate a better structure to the data center strategy and give proper context to those involved in the decisions.
The entire Data Center Strategies white paper can be downloaded here.