System upgrades are a fact of life , and every operation needs to build capital expenditures into its budget to keep its systems up to date—that’s what keeps solution providers in business. However, when it comes to the company data center, upgrades to accommodate emerging technologies can be complex and expensive. Part of the solution provider’s responsibility is to add value by helping customers implement the best strategies for keeping data centers up to date without breaking the bank. By carefully counseling customers, solution providers can make themselves invaluable without having to perform a rip-and-replace of data center systems.
Data center management has to be evolutionary, not revolutionary, so planning needs to go into data center design from the outset, providing a clear path for system upgrades. According to 451 Research, 87 percent of data center operators in North America and Europe plan to increase spending on their data center facilities, and that’s in addition to investing more in cloud and colocation providers. Most of the spending is for racks and cabling, power equipment and data center infrastructure management (DCIM) software.
There are some logical areas, such as DCIM and power upgrades, where you can start your assessments to aid customers with data center improvements that will provide immediate benefits. However, before you can start installing new hardware and software, you need to understand the long-term strategy for the data center. CIOs have already planned out their data center growth in order to allocate budgets, and the solution provider’s job is to understand those long-term objectives and guide CIOs and IT managers to make wiser hardware, software and service investments.
Here are five ways that solution providers can become more valuable in shaping the evolution of today’s data centers:
1. Understand what is already in place – By their very nature, data centers change over time, and the addition of new hardware and software isn’t always well planned or well documented. Sometimes change is extensive and disruptive, but usually it is slow and subtle, with changes in staffing, contracts and equipment over time. Develop a comprehensive blueprint of the existing enterprise infrastructure that includes all those added systems before you start making recommendations. As part of change management, be sure you have the means to record any planned changes, including warranties, suppliers and software versions.
2. Implement DCIM – Centralizing data center operations management is an excellent way to gain a working understanding of current system operations. Investing in DCIM tools is a good starting place. DCIM software allows you to monitor, measure and manage data center resources and utilization, including energy consumption for IT equipment such as servers, storage and switches. DCIM also monitors power distribution units (PDUs) and computer-room cooling systems. Changes to the data center infrastructure will have an impact on cooling and power, and DCIM lets you measure that impact.
3. Cloud computing – In addition to upgrading the enterprise infrastructure, assess ways to expand the infrastructure using cloud resources. Cloud computing and data storage are extensible and can be added as needed, making it easier and less expensive to keep pace with changing data center demands. For example, cloud data storage may be more cost-effective than adding new storage arrays.
4. SDN and virtualization – Software-defined networking (SDN) and virtualization provide more flexibility and better control over enterprise components. By implementing SDN and virtualization, you can centralize network resource management while reducing the data center footprint, and make better use of network resources by using them as virtual machines. As a result, you can add new network components as needed, either on-premises or in the cloud.
5. Getting more out of the legacy infrastructure – Of course, not all changes require new equipment or infrastructure. Even simple modifications to the existing data center can have a positive impact. For example, most experts agree that today’s networking equipment is more temperature-tolerant, so consider raising the operating temperature within the data center in order to save on costs. Even rearranging the physical layout of equipment and equipment racks can change airflow and reduce cooling needs. More companies also are tapping into natural cooling sources, such as colder outside temperatures and water cooling. Upgrading power systems with newer technology, such as intelligent uninterruptible power supplies, also can reduce operating costs while increasing flexibility. In-rack PDUs, for example, can add intelligent power management to network hardware along with temperature and humidity controls.
These are just a few of the ways that solution providers can help customers lay the foundation for changing data center requirements. The goal is to provide additional flexibility without adding overhead, and solutions such as cloud computing, virtualization, SDN and better cooling and power management promise to make upgrades easier to integrate and manage at minimal cost.