Patrick Donovan is Senior Research Analyst for Schneider Electric's Data Center Science Center.
Today, data volumes have reached astronomical levels as a result of trends like the Internet of Things and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and managing this growing amount of information with traditional systems is becoming increasingly difficult. Over time, businesses have scaled their existing infrastructure to handle this data growth by adding disparate systems onto older technology, making their IT environments more complex than ever before and putting strain on data center managers. But as today’s digitally driven world demands faster and more agile access to information, these complicated systems are becoming a detriment to businesses rather than a competitive advantage. Enterprises looking to modernize their IT and the physical infrastructure supporting it should consider a more nimble and faster-to-deploy architecture using Converged Infrastructure (CI) and prefabricated, modular power and cooling systems.
Converged Infrastructure from the Perspective of Power and Cooling Infrastructure
CI rolls compute, storage and networking into a self-provisioning pool of shared resources that are often pre-engineered, pre-tested, and pre-configured before dropping into your data center. Through this "plug-and-play" deployment, critical IT infrastructure can be up and running in hours or days, not weeks or months, as with traditional builds. However, like traditional IT, converged infrastructure still needs adequate power, cooling, space, and connectivity resources in a secure, reliable and efficient manner.
CI is typically characterized by a high degree of virtualization and automated software management. Virtualization allows for the pooling of compute, I/O, and storage resources, and the pre-engineered and tested logic of CI gives rise to automation schemes that make the rapid configuration and allocation of these resources possible for wide varieties of workloads. This automated flexibility lends itself well to self-service and "pay-as-you-go" type models typical of private cloud infrastructures.
Furthermore, CI provides IT managers with the ability to provision, test and deploy IT dramatically faster with a major reduction of time and resources needed to manage and maintain the infrastructure, making it an attractive choice for businesses. These valuable benefits stem directly from the fact that all the components and sub-systems are pre-designed and supported together as a single system by the vendors or system integrators.
Modernization Through CI and Prefab Physical Infrastructure
As more organizations turn to converged infrastructure to simplify IT management and accelerate deployment, many may, for very similar reasons, look to the deployment of prefabricated, modular data center physical infrastructure (power, cooling, racks) systems to support them. Indeed, the beneficial capabilities of CI – getting applications up and running as fast as possible – rely greatly on a data center’s power, cooling and rack space: This wonderful ability to deploy IT quickly can be greatly mitigated if power and cooling resources are difficult and time-consuming to design, deploy, test and commission. For instance, if the facility is running out of power, cooling, and rack space, or a greenfield facility is being built, new physical infrastructure systems must also be fast and easy-to-deploy in order to realize the potential speed benefits of CI. Particularly when compared with traditional stick-built facilities, prefabricated data center modules are faster to deploy thanks to their standardization and prefab nature. And it does so at a cost that is very similar to or even less than traditional “stick” builds.
A popular application for CI is a branch office or any small, remote site with less than 150 kW or so of IT capacity. This is due, in part, to CI’s automated, remote management capabilities making it ideal for sites where local IT staff is limited or non-existent.
In addition, there is now a newer form of prefabricated, modular data center physical infrastructure that targets this same application, called a “micro data center.” These small facilities are self-contained, secure computing environments ship in one enclosure and combine the converged IT systems with all of the necessary infrastructure to power, cool, manage and secure them. Micro data centers also include all the storage, processing, and networking necessary to run applications. And, since they are assembled and tested in a factory environment, it takes just a matter of days or weeks to get the data center up and running. But beyond micro data centers, there are many other types of prefabricated data center modules for larger applications that can built, customized and assembled to accommodate the needs of the location and the business. From self-contained, containerized, prefabricated modular rooms and purpose-built prefabricated modules, data center managers have many different options to choose from today. Each can be easily scaled up or down, giving businesses greater flexibility to grow or consolidate more quickly and at a similar or lower cost than a traditional brick-and-mortar data center.
Leveraging CI and Prefab Power and Cooling to Meet the Future Needs of the Data Center
As made evident by a recent survey, the importance of infrastructure upgrades/modernization is at all-time high – 93 percent of respondents agreed somewhat or completely on the importance of infrastructure upgrades/modernization. To modernize and upgrade their data center operations to meet the high demand of today’s data-laden world, businesses can look to leverage converged IT infrastructure and the prefabricated physical infrastructure modules to support it. As converged IT infrastructure and prefabricated power and cooling break down site engineering and deployment complexities, while also driving standardization and simplicity in the data center, data center managers will be better equipped to deploy and maintain their facilities – allowing them to turn their data centers into efficient, agile business drivers.
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