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8 Simple Rules For Improving A Data Center

Data Center Deconstructed reader Eric Chou writes:  Good to see the knowledge sharing Doug. I read your book on building a Data Center a few years back and it was informative on the physical infrastructure piece.  I think it would also be informative if you can share some of the experiences or creative ways to increase efficiency when there are macro environment limitations.  I mean, outside of a select few companies (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Amazon), most companies are not able to build a Data Center from the ground up, buy the cheapest land near a lake or negotiate a jaw dropping electricity rate with the local government.  What can we do when we need to house 1/2 floor of servers in a 80-year old peering exchange that assumes 2 KVA per rack when designed?

That’s a great question.  As I often tell other Data Center managers, we can make any upgrades to our server environments we want to as long as there’s no downtime or cost.  I’m joking with that comment – mostly – but it is a common scenario.  Fortunately, there are several things that can be done in a legacy Data Center to improve its efficiency and reduce the likelihood of downtime without spending much money or disrupting the environment.

Here, then, are eight simple rules for improving a Data Center.

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The Data Center Infomercial

Breathless over the BeDazzler?

Pleased with the Power Juicer?

Psyched by the ShamWow?

We’ve all seen late night infomercials touting everything from cookware to hair products to fitness gear.  Amidst the incredible claims, B-list celebrities and amazed studio audience members, you’ve surely wondered:  when will someone create a Data Center device worthy of an infomercial?

Wonder no more.  Here, now, is the Data Center Forecaster. Read More »

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Would You, Could You, In a Box?

If you saw any coverage of the recent opening of Cisco’s Data Center in North Carolina, you likely noticed that it features two distinct server environments – an in-building facility and a containerized one.  Having them side-by-side naturally raises the question when is a container a good alternative to a brick-and-mortar installation?

I researched that topic a few years ago when I was part of Cisco IT’s Data Center design team, as we explored different approaches to address the company’s computing needs.  I found eight great reasons to consider a containerized Data Center, and three potential reasons not to:

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Welcoming a New Family Member

Care for a candy cigar?

After months of anticipation and countless hours spent on the delivery, I’m happy to announce a new member to Cisco’s family.  Our newest Data Center has come into the world in Raleigh, North Carolina.  It’s 18,500 sq. ft. (1,719 sq. m.) in size and has 2.88 MW of capacity.  The parents are tired but otherwise doing fine.

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Lessons for the Data Center Novice

Early in my days as a Data Center manager I attended a series of talks focused on Data Center energy efficiency.  The sessions covered everything from hardware chip design to application performance to physical infrastructure.

Even for a beginner, two things were immediately obvious.  First, Data Centers consume more energy than other buildings – much more.  Second, with so many different components drawing power there are a lot of opportunities to make a server environment more energy efficient.

One presenter, from a manufacturer of Data Center standby electrical systems, mentioned during his talk that electrical components operate more efficiently at higher loads.  The closer they are to maximum capacity, the better they perform.

I thought about this for a while and at the conclusion of the session, asked:  “If electrical systems operate more efficiently at higher loads, why do operators of Data Centers with redundant electrical infrastructure split the load evenly between the A and B sides?  Why not put the entire load on side A and nothing on side B?  Wouldn’t that be more energy efficient?”

To my surprise, the question stumped the presenter.  Eventually, one of his co-workers in the audience stood up and said they had conducted experiments with that configuration and found that although it was more energy efficient, when a failure occurred on the A side and the full power load (in his words) “came crashing onto the B side,” the components sometimes failed.  The redundant electrical infrastructure could reliably handle a sudden jump from 40 percent loaded to 80 percent, but not from zero to 80 percent.

Oh.  Enter my third Data Center lesson for the day:  energy efficiency is important, but ensuring availability is much more important.

Speaking of availability and Data Center power, this week’s question explores the use of rotary UPS systems that employ flywheel technology versus traditional battery UPS systems.  See below for discussion of the pros and cons of each.

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