Friday, January 26, 2007

Server Room Security Measures

The other day I was reading a news story about hollow coins being used for espionage and it inadvertently got me thinking about server room security issues. While I’m still not 100% sure of the best way to protect your facility against Canadian spy coins, I am aware of a number of techniques for guarding against unauthorized server room access.

To reduce downtime from accidents or sabotage due to the presence of unnecessary or malicious people, it’s important to implement server room security measures that account for a wide variety of potential threats. Whether building a new facility or renovating an old one, you’ll want to begin by mapping out your server room and identifying its most vulnerable areas. These may include access points, sensitive IT equipment and critical elements of the physical infrastructure.

Controlling Access to the Server Room

Server room security begins with controlling access to your facility. Security cards, biometrics and other auditable methods are commonly used to limit who is able to gain entry into the server room, but these methods can only do so much. Security cards, keys or passwords can fall into the wrong hands, while biometrics devices are expensive and may accidentally keep out people who should have access.

If these were your only options, it would be a tradeoff between lower security with convenience and higher security with hassles. By pairing either of these methods with backups such as IP-based camera surveillance, security guards or dry contact sensors, your server room is much better protected. Rather than relying on one strategy, a combination of security measures will provide the best result, particularly if they grow more stringent as you move toward the heart of the facility. By combining methods, you increase reliability.

Reinforcing Physical Infrastructure

From the ground up, the physical infrastructure of your facility should also contribute to your server room security. It pays to incorporate architectural and construction features that discourage or thwart intrusion. For example, make sure the walls of your server room extend past the ceiling, to the roof, to eliminate potential break-in points.

Reinforcing the physical infrastructure of your facility does more than just protect mission-critical IT equipment from theft or sabotage; it also gives protection to HVAC systems, power generators and fire suppression systems – anything that, if compromised, could result in downtime.

Securing IT Equipment

In addition to network security measures, it is important to implement physical security for IT equipment. Within the server room, rack-level security is a top concern. Rack locks defend against unauthorized access to critical equipment by limiting who can touch what. Not only does this help prevent sabotage, it also reduces the number of accidents and mistakes caused by workers interacting with technology that they may not be qualified to use.

Choosing a Security Solution

Every facility has its own unique security needs. When designing a security plan for your server room, carefully weigh your options. The goal is to find an acceptable compromise between security and its expense. By combining an assessment of risk tolerance with an analysis of available technologies and access requirements, it is possible to find an affordable, effective solution that will be accepted by users.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Data Center Power Solutions

I receive a lot of questions from clients seeking solutions to their problems with data center power consumption. It seems that the higher energy costs rise, the more power the average data center needs. Overall costs for data center power may be skyrocketing, but there are ways to mitigate the expense. Here are some interesting suggestions I’ve come across lately:

- Utilize virtualization software
Virtualization technology is being trumpeted by many as a great way to get more bang for your data center buck. By means of virtualization you can reduce the number of servers that are required to run your applications, thereby increasing the operational efficiency of your data center.

This has become such a hot option that many manufacturers, including Intel, are now building virtualization capabilities into their chips. Companies such as Pacific Gas & Electric Co., which provides electricity to northern California, are jumping on virtualization as an opportunity to cut energy usage by offering financial kickbacks to data centers that save power after implementing virtualization technology.

- Switch from AC-power to DC-power
The idea of running data centers on DC-power isn’t a new one. Since DC requires fewer conversions than AC, there’s great potential for energy savings – some researchers predict a 10 to 20 percent reduction in power costs. Making the switch seems like a no-brainer, right? Unfortunately, higher engineering and technology costs keep DC-power from really catching on. It’s estimated that the cost for DC compatible equipment can climb up to 40 percent higher than that of AC-based technology.

- Install multi-core processors
Multi-core processors can give your data center’s hardware, as well as its energy savings, a boost. Multi-core processors may use slightly more power than a standard processor, but they run faster. This means one multi-core can do the job of several individual processors, reducing the amount of equipment and energy needed to get the job done.

- Optimize your cooling systems
Data center power and cooling go hand-in-hand. To optimize your CRAC systems and reduce energy consumption, focus on adjusting your air flow to eliminate hotspots. A/C units run most efficiently when operating at approximately 80% capacity and when they’re fed the hottest air. If you introduce additional cooling equipment without first trying to improve the efficiency of your existing setup, you’re doing your data center a disservice.

- Have a “Meeting of the Minds” between IT and Facilities Management
People in data center facilities management often complain that the IT team doesn’t properly consult them before purchasing new equipment, which leads to issues with data center power and cooling efficiency. The facilities management team has an intimate knowledge of the data center’s power and cooling infrastructure. By tapping into the combined experience of both departments, companies can sidestep potential energy wasters and keep the data center running at optimal efficiency.

For more solutions regarding data center power or other topics, please visit our Vendor White Paper archive.