Cooling with the data center has become our achilles heal in many cases. Historically the folks in IT had relatively nothing to do with heat or cooling management, this was strictly under the purview of the facilities team (after all, if it wasn’t IT gear, it didn’t count). In todays world though the IT team has to get involved, since they are the ones that need to live with (and fix) the problem.
In this series of posts I’ll posit 10 of the easy steps you can take to solve, or mitigate the cooling issue at your site.
9. Technology Refresh
Using technology refresh as a cooling solution may seem counterintuitive to many people, but it in fact is a proven solution for many. An interesting trend has been under way that could help IT organizations solve multiple problems simultaneously (see “Grow Disk Storage 800% or More, Without Increasing Power or Cooling Costs, in the Same Space”). The problems are intertwined in almost all data centers: capacity, space and power. Each issue is impacted almost every time equipment is added or changed on the data center floor. Historically, capacity planners focused on new application growth and a continuous drive toward virtualization, while keeping existing equipment in “maintenance mode,” trying to get the most work out of the equipment over the longest time possible — especially when faced with tight budgets. It turns out that this seemingly prudent use of resources was not, or will not necessarily be, the most prudent thing to do. One reason is that the energy requirements of older servers, in some cases, is three to four times greater than new equipment.
In recent years, x86 server performance has been doubling (or increasing even more than that) with each new generation, while at the same time becoming more energy efficient. Doubling the performance and halving the power in the same space is a sound cost-saving concept. When you look at AMD or Intel performance numbers over the last few generations, and then compare the energy consumption for each of those generations, you’ll notice a dramatic increase in processor performance, while at the same time seeing a significant reduction in energy consumption (and heat generation) for those servers. An equipment replacement policy that is escalated (rather than deferred due to capital constraints) can in fact have the added benefit of reducing energy (and cooling) requirements while also reducing physical capacity (smaller footprint) and increasing performance.
10. External Augmentation
For data centers nearing capacity, either of physical floor space or the facilities infrastructure to support the IT load, the idea of external augmentation is beginning to resonate. In actuality this technique is not about augmenting an existing environment, but about offloading some percentage of workload elsewhere in order to free up power, cooling and floor space in the existing data center for future growth. Depending on the age and location of the data center the type of workload involved can vary greatly. In some cases data centers are so old there is a great risk of impacting business outcomes with an extended outage and therefore the high risk, mission critical systems are potential move candidates while improvements or a retrofit project is completed.
In other cases the data center may in fact be very robust and highly fault resilient, but cannot handle the current growth trends. In these cases offloading non-critical work (e.g. back office systems, test/development) may become a viable alternative to building out a complete new data center. In either case the offloading is often considered a short term (e.g. 2 year) solution while the optimal solution is developed.