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Four Strategies to Meet Changing Demands on Your Data Center Infrastructure

Navigating today's data center challenges is complex. Learn how a robust supply chain, cloud elasticity, new markets, and sustainability can help future-proof operations.

4 Min Read
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Data center infrastructures are near a breaking point, as facilities struggle to meet the capacity demands of existing workloads as well as the additional requirements of newer, advanced technologies.

Whether it’s a hyperscale, a multi-tenant data center (MTDC), or an in-office network closet, data center operators can’t ignore these challenges. Yet while they need to get this right, many still find it hard to make effective planning decisions.

What’s needed is a new approach, one that ensures adequate capacity within budget while allowing them to meet sustainability objectives. Here are four strategies to consider:  

Carefully Manage the Data Center Supply Chain

Supply chain constraints have eased somewhat from pandemic levels, but many products still have limited availability. Some construction materials, internal infrastructure products, and cabling have extended lead times, and these may not ease up anytime soon.

Now is not a time to get comfortable, as we are entering a worldwide data center super cycle with unprecedented data center buildouts by hyperscalers and colocation customers due to innovations such as AI. This makes it even more important to put supply chain programs in place to ensure they can meet capacity demands in this highly competitive market as larger data center environments join the queue. And, of course, prices have gone up also.

Related:Hyperscalers in 2024: Where Next For the World’s Biggest Data Center Operators?

Data center needs are different. Hyperscalers may have a different set of requirements than a colocation provider, who must always have a variety of solutions ready for their clients. As a result, operators must build flexibility into their project plans to stay on time and within budget.

They should also develop a program for maintaining spare parts and commonly used products while carefully managing overhead and depreciation. Most importantly, operators must carefully manage their supply chains to obtain the products they need. This starts by selecting suppliers who serve as true business partners rather than order-takers.

Use the Cloud for Greater Elasticity

Data centers that build out more capacity than is needed will not see a return on investment. Conversely, data centers that lack adequate capacity will miss opportunities, particularly certain enterprise data centers and smaller MTDCs. The elasticity of the cloud can help address these challenges.

Organizations can spin up cloud instances to meet immediate needs and repatriate those workloads to the corporate data center when capacity is available. It may turn out that keeping the workloads in the cloud is a solid long-term option as this type of hybrid approach can help better manage data traffic, power consumption, rack space, and more.

Related:The Hottest Colocation Markets are No Longer in the US and Western Europe

Consider New Markets for Expansion

If the cloud isn’t an option, data center operators may need to expand their facilities to support growing workload requirements. Hyperscale data centers are increasingly building modular data center capabilities, to expand their capabilities on an as-needed basis. Similarly, MTDCs are building larger facilities and leveraging a hybrid cloud approach.

More and more data centers are increasing their high-performance compute capabilities, expanding data capacity at the rack level. However, power costs are rising rapidly in the top data center markets, which are concentrated in major population hubs and financial centers.

As a result, many data center operators are looking to build new facilities in markets that have land and power available at lower costs. Atlanta, Denver, and Las Vegas can be attractive alternatives to saturated markets such as Silicon Valley or the Northeast.

Develop a Sustainable Plan

Mechanical and electrical loads consume megawatts of power and the demand on the electrical infrastructure will only increase. At the same time, data center operators are looking to reduce their facilities’ carbon footprint and keep a lid on energy costs. To meet those competing objectives, data center operators will need to look at renewable energy sources.

In addition, operators should explore innovative ways to make their facilities more sustainable. Thermal management accounts for a great deal of data center energy consumption, so new cooling techniques are a priority. Water cooling is better in terms of carbon emissions than air cooling but uses enormous amounts of water.

Newer techniques – such as direct-to-chip cooling – deliver liquid coolant to processors, where much of the heat is generated.

Future-Proofing Data Center Operations

With so many moving parts to consider, these myriad challenges will only get more acute as time goes on. But no matter the data center environment, by taking the steps above, as well as searching out partners with track records of success in making these updates, data center operators will be well on their way toward meeting capacity demands today and into the future.    

Matt Powers is vice president of technology and support services at Wesco.

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