Tuesday, December 26, 2006

New Year’s Resolutions for Data Center Solutions

Happy holidays, everyone!

Each year, millions of people form New Year’s Resolutions in the hopes of making a change for the better. I encourage data center managers and other IT professionals to use this annual tradition as an opportunity to reflect on the data center solutions you want – or need – to adopt in order to keep your data center in top condition. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1. “Eat right/Quit smoking/Drink less”

I’m not suggesting that you or your team members change your lifestyle habits. The idea behind this metaphoric resolution is to improve the overall health of your data center. Consider updating your key processes, tightening up security, keeping a more detailed record of network changes, or coming up with some other solution that will boost your data center’s availability.

2. “Battle the bulge”

Over time, data centers tend to get cluttered. Dirt and dust start to accumulate on mission critical equipment, and employees may try to use perceived “extra space” for storage. This could cause major problems down the road. Straightening things up will not only improve employee moral and health, but also enhance equipment performance and cut down on maintenance costs. Cleaning your data center every day, week, or month will help your machines run better, and keeping the “extra space” empty will improve the efficiency of your environmental systems.

3. “Learn something new”

Don’t let your team get set in its ways. Establish a reading habit that will keep you up-to-date regarding new technologies and data center solutions. Encourage your coworkers to do the same. Also, attend an industry-sponsored convention or open house – it’s a valuable opportunity to make connections and gain a fresh perspective.

4. “Save money”

Find ways to cut costs via server virtualization or other efficiency-boosting solutions. Analyze the efficiency of your air conditioning or electrical systems – a few refinements might result in major financial rewards.

5. “Reduce stress/Enjoy life more”

Once you’ve made strategic improvements to your data center operations based on your IT resolutions, you’ll be able to spend more time making large-scale improvements instead of chasing after minor problems.

Set aside some time this week to write down your own IT resolutions. It’s a small step that will help you start 2007 with your best foot foreword.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Puzzling Over Effective Server Room Design

Creating an effective server room design is a bit like piecing together a jigsaw puzzle. Unless you’re a glutton for punishment (which, I admit, some of us probably are), you wouldn’t get started on a puzzle without making sure you had all the right pieces or without looking at the picture on the box to see how the finished puzzle is supposed to look. In order to get the project done as efficiently and effectively as possible, you need to assess the puzzle’s pieces, make a game plan, and then begin work in a systematic manner.

When creating a server room design, not only do you need to take stock of all the elements of the server room, you also need to consider the way those components work together. It’s rare that you get a server room design right on the first try – throughout the design process, you’ll need to adjust for different design elements to make sure the systems work harmoniously.

To make sure your team has all its pieces in place, begin by meeting with your IT and facility staff to review your server room objectives based on your existing systems and facility. With your company’s design goals in mind, your team can evaluate the availability expectations as well as the requirements for your server room’s power and cooling density. From this point, you can develop a conceptual server room design and draw up construction budgets and timelines.

The end-result of your design project should be a server room that not only provides enhanced scalability, flexibility and server availability, but also concurrent maintainability and fault-tolerance against failures in which a component must be replaced.

To evaluate the quality of your server room design, consider the following points:

1. The server room should accommodate your current needs, as well as your facility’s expansion for up to five years in the future. If it doesn’t, you may need to go back to the drawing board.

2. Your location should be centralized and in a secure location. Try to avoid placing the server room near in the basement, on the ground floor, near bathrooms, and near the roof or exterior walls because of flooding and climate control issues. Also, avoid high traffic areas in order to improve the security of your server room.

3. When evaluating your server room’s power and cooling requirements, don’t stop with just the servers or the air conditioning system. Consider the impact of air flow, floor space, lighting, UPS, fans, and other hardware. Each of these elements affects your design’s power and cooling loads. You may have to revisit your plans multiple times to create an efficient server room design..

4. Take security seriously. Control access to your server room via auditable methods and consider installing security cameras.

The true test of an effective server room is whether your design will allow for future expansion while remaining reliable and cost-effective in the present time. Through careful planning, you can design a sophisticated, successful server room that meet your company’s demands for years to come.