Building and managing effective data centre infrastructure is essential for cloud ability
These days almost no conversation can take place about IT without the subject of cloud computing raising its head. It’s clear that public and private organisations alike are starting to see the potential benefits of a “pay as you grow”, or on-demand style of service provision. Despite concerns about possible security and privacy risks, the subject has received its fair share of talking up from analysts and other commentators.
Rapidly changing scenarios have been the enemy not only of the people that design and develop data centres, but those who pay for them too. There is a tension between facilities being built for a 10 or 20-year lifecycle to house equipment which is evolving on an almost annual basis. Think about the changes to your laptop in terms of speed, size, processing and storage capability and imagine the implications for a space the size of an aircraft hangar, full of servers.
Since the end of the dotcom era, the evolution of IT servers into smaller, more powerful devices has been the cause of considerable pain for the data centre industry. Compaction has been a very rapid development – for over thirty years data centres were built to deliver around 1.75kW of cooling for each rack of IT equipment. With no significant deviation from this requirement, the huge capital expense of these facilities could easily be amortised over 20 years or more to ensure a reasonable return on investment.
However, the pace of change has been so great that during the last decade it became impossible for data centre designers to predict the nature of the IT load that new facilities would be hosting even a few years after they were built, let alone 10 years down the road. In fact, some data centres became unfit for purpose in the period between being designed and being commissioned, long before they did any useful computing work.
In a market that has been slow to adapt, two major trends have emerged recently, both of which will play a major role in the rapid provision of reliable, efficient and scalable physical infrastructure to support cloud services. The first is the introduction of standardised, modular architecture (including containers), which extends from the IT “white space” to the facility level. The building block approach started by Schneider Electric, with introduction of its InfraStruxure solution, now provides off-the-shelf modules that can be plugged together to rapidly and predictably provision growing cloud requirements.
The second major trend is the burgeoning market for data centre infrastructure management (DCIM) software, which according to analysts The 451 Group will grow from an estimated $240m (£155m) in 2011 to $1.2b (£775m) by 2016. DCIM such as Schneider Electric’s StruxureWare Data Center software, provides a number of benefits, from reduced power consumption to increased utilisation and manageability of data centre assets. Software is essential for the management of highly complex, highly virtualised environments, which are the hallmarks of cloud data centres.
Dale Wrangles, vice president of IT
Business, Schneider Electric UK