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The Rodney Dangerfield of Data Center Infrastructure

Server cabinets typically get no respect when folks try to improve the energy efficiency of their Data Centers.   Why would they?  Cabinets don’t consume power.  They don’t even have moving parts.  They’re the second-string of Data Center physical infrastructure, used only so hardware, power strips and patch fields don’t have to sit in a heap on the hosting area floor.

If you’re treating the cabinets in your Data Center like nothing more than shelving units, though, you’re overlooking a useful tool.  Choosing the right server cabinet and being strategic about how components are installed within them can optimize airflow, reduce hot spots and even reduce power consumption as the Data Center’s cooling system doesn’t have to work as hard.

Consider their role in dissipating heat produced by high-performance hardware.

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Real-Time Video: From Science Fiction to Reality

If you were making a movie or television show about the future, what fantastic technology would you feature?  How many years do you think it would take for that technology to not only be invented but also come in to common usage?

I participate frequently in Telepresence calls for my job.  Video communication was the stuff of science fiction long before being developed to the point that any of us could use it in real life, though.  Back in 1966, Star Trek showed starship-to-starship video transmissions alongside molecular transporters, food replicators and faster-than-light space travel.  More than 40 years later I still can’t beam on to a starship or travel at warp speed but I can and do have real-time video conversations with people around the planet.

Fascinating, as Mr. Spock would say.

As we use video more and more in our everyday activities, how is Cisco accommodating increasing traffic on its own network infrastructure?

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Energy Efficiency Makes Two Kinds of Green

Would you believe you can have yourself a pretty successful business upgrading office buildings with more energy-efficient light bulbs and timers to switch off heating and cooling systems after hours?

I worked as a newspaper reporter for much of the 1990s.  I wrote an article in 1993 about how the city of Santa Clarita in Los Angeles County had hired a firm to retrofit its field services office with new lighting, timers and other energy-efficient solutions.  The improvements were expected to save about $70,000 per year.

What always intrigued me about the story was that the company that performed the upgrades not only allowed Santa Clarita to incrementally pay for the improvements out of the savings from lowered utility bills but also guaranteed those savings would more than offset the price tag of the improvements in 5 years.  If the savings didn’t materialize, the company would pay the shortfall back to the city.

Everyone wins.  The company performing the upgrades gets paid for doing the upgrade work, the city saves money on its utility bills for years to come and the environment is better off due to reduced energy consumption and associated carbon emissions.

Now, consider that modern Data Centers can have power densities 50 to 100 times those of conventional office buildings.  How much greater green – both financial and environmental kind – can be had by saving energy in those environments?  With that in mind, here is an overview of several strategies being implemented in Data Centers to make them greener.

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Is It Me or Is It Getting Warmer In Here?

By reading this blog, you’re making someone’s Data Center a little warmer.

Playing the video below?  Warmer.

Navigating to another website?  Warmer.

Sending an e-mail?  Downloading an application?  Initiating a web search?  Warmer, warmer, warmer.

Everything you and I do online triggers computing activity in a Data Center somewhere that in turn consumes energy and creates heat.  Each action has a negligible impact on its own, but with more people conducting more tasks online every day – well, you see the concern.

Perhaps we could use some of that heat?  It’s a great idea, but specific conditions need to be in place for Data Center waste heat to be of use.

We’ll keep our eyes open for suitable opportunities to reuse waste heat in future Data Center builds.  Meanwhile, come back next week for a look at several green Data Center solutions that Cisco and others are using.

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Getting More From a Legacy Data Center

Have you ever tried to fit 10 lbs. of flour into an 8 lb. bag?

If you have a legacy Data Center and a growing business, that answer is probably yes.  Maybe you’re figuring to force more hardware onto your already-full floor space.  Maybe you’re wanting to wring every last watt from the circuits supporting your racks.  Perhaps you’re seeking to slip in just a few more servers without overtaxing your cooling system.

Whatever flour you have, the obvious fix is to buy a bigger bag:  add cooling infrastructure, add power systems, knock down a wall and add floor space.  Unfortunately, those are expensive solutions – even a relatively small server environment can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars when you include both Facilities and IT costs.

Perhaps there’s another way, though – a way that 8 lbs. of flour can meet your 10 lbs. of need and you don’t need more flour or a bigger bag after all.

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