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Understanding the Cloud’s Effect on Facilities Teams

The modern data center infrastructure now resembles a distributed platform capable of handling today’s “data-on-demand” society, writes Bill Kleyman of MTM Technologies. With this type of evolution, come new standards in how facilities teams must manage their environments.

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Bill Kleyman is a virtualization and cloud solutions architect at MTM Technologies where he works extensively with data center, cloud, networking, and storage design projects. You can find him on LinkedIn.

Bill Kleyman, MTM Technologies


MTM Technologies

During the early days of data center design and management, facilities teams were able to run their own environments with only minimal interaction with other teams. Over the past few years, the standard data center model has truly evolved into something new. Centralized data center environments are no longer the norm as data is seen being distributed along numerous points on a global data center grid. The modern data center infrastructure now resembles a distributed platform capable of handling today’s “data-on-demand” society.

With this type of evolution, come new standards in how facilities teams must manage their environments. This means taking cloud computing into serious consideration. One of the biggest movements over the past couple of years, and through today, has been the concept of the cloud.

During the recent 2012 Uptime Symposium, one of the biggest discussion topics heavily revolved around the cloud. Sessions and breakout rooms were filled with facilities managers trying to learn more about cloud computing and how it will affect them. There’s no doubt that the cloud will have some impact on how a data center is designed, monitored and maintained. The important takeaway is understanding that cloud computing is seen as a vital tool for data center efficiency, rather than a potential anchor.

Impacts of Cloud

The effects of the cloud take numerous forms. When it comes to data center design and management, cloud computing can be a truly powerful tool. Consider the following:

  • Datacenter consolidation. With advancements in virtualization, IT facilities managers can now reduce the amount of physical data center resources that are directly in use. This means fewer servers and better resource utilization. This reduction in data center space can result in more intelligent computing and better cost management.

  • Monitoring and management. As a direct result of cloud computing, new monitoring and management tools have made the modern data center easier to control. Monitoring features are able to look at metrics such as workload balancing, server environmental statistics and even check for alerts and alarms. Working in a distributed environment settings has created the direct need for better management software. Facilities managers should take this into consideration and see how cloud-ready tools can help their environment.

  • Reconsidering HVAC. With a reduction in the physical footprint as a result of cloud computing and virtualization, facilities administrators are able to create a more efficient environment with better cooling and management practices. With cloud computing, there will be new requirements as far as how much environmental control will be required. This can be either a positive or negative, depending on the cloud approach. If a private cloud is being built onsite with new, integrated architecture, there may actually be a need for more cooling requirements, even if the footprint is less. On the other hand, offloading a cloud platform to a public provider can result in less cooling and power needs.

  • Disaster Recovery. A big benefit of cloud computing is the ability to replicate an entire data center to a remote facility (or numerous remote facilities). The other major consideration is the fact that these cloud-based DR data centers can be provisioned on demand with a pay-as-you-go model. This means facilities administrators won’t have to worry about their remote infrastructure until the time comes for a DR event. Of course, testing and constant monitoring of the secondary environment is always key.

  • On-demand computing. Instead of having systems being in a state of always on – facilities and IT teams can coordinate to ensure that a portion of that infrastructure is cloud-ready and provisioned only on demand. This means fewer data center components and less idle machines. More environments are looking to cloud providers to help them offload certain types of workloads and better their physical data center efficiencies.

  • Data management and warehousing. The conversation around “big data” is growing. More environments are seeking answers and solutions to how they can better manage their ever expanding database needs. Many times this means adding more shelves to a SAN and storing yet more data onsite. With cloud computing, facilities managers can leverage outside, WAN-based resources, to host some of their data needs. This means possible offloading or archiving massive amounts of data for quick retrieval, but making it all cloud-based.

  • Decentralizing the data center. Resiliency, redundancy and efficiency are always at the top of any facilities person’s list. A part of that process is to reduce single points of failure within a data center as well as making data more quickly to the end-user. With cloud computing, facilities can extend their environment and utilize more resources on-demand. This decentralized methodology can help offload hardware from an existing data center, create a more redundant system, and ensure that data can be placed closer to the end-user.

And More to Come

The reality with the cloud is that the list above can go on quite a bit. Each environment is unique and will therefore have its own set of requirements. It’s important not to have a phobia of the cloud, but instead gain a good understanding of it. Fear-based reactions are steps backwards and are usually the result of not understanding a certain cloud component. Take the time to truly learn about cloud computing and how it can help align your data center with key business drivers.

Industry Perspectives is a content channel at Data Center Knowledge highlighting thought leadership in the data center arena. See our guidelines and submission process for information on participating. View previously published Industry Perspectives in our Knowledge Library.

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