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Data Center Optimization: Tips for Successfully Optimizing Your Data Center

Data Center Optimization

What data center doesn’t want to be more efficient, secure, and reliable?  These three things are at the core of almost all decision-making for data centers. As we move into a new era of data centers, many managers are looking for the best ways to optimize their data center so that they can stay competitive.  While the reasons for optimizing a data center are somewhat obvious, the methods and means may be a little more elusive.  Where do you start?  How do you sustain these changes and continue to adapt them in the future to meet needs?  What is practical and realistic based on available resources?  These questions are often the starting place for a data center operator.

Data Center Optimization:  Why It Matters

It is no secret that data centers use a lot of power.  A lot.  Because of this fact, and the reality that most of the world is trying to be more energy efficient and do their part in reducing their energy usage footprint, many data centers are making efforts to optimize their power usage.  Legacy data centers, in particular, can be major energy consumers.  But unfortunately, while legacy data centers typically need the most work in terms of optimization, that means they are also often the most expensive and labor-intensive optimization projects.  

If we look at trends in the technology space, data size, data volume, etc., we can clearly see that there will only continue to be an increased energy demand placed on data centers. And, not only do data centers need to find efficient and effective ways to manage changing data sizes and volumes, but these changes impact data center cooling needs which also influence energy efficiency. For this reason, now is the time to focus on data center optimization.  

In addition to energy usage, there are many other reasons that optimization should be a priority in every data center.  First, automation is coming – does your data center have the capabilities to execute effective and efficient data center automation practices?  Additionally, cloud and hybrid options are an incredibly powerful resource for data centers – does your data center have the capability in place to leverage the full potential of these resources?  If not, it is probably time to optimize your data center.

Data Center Optimization:  Where to Begin?

Most data center operators know that optimization should be a priority but it can be challenging, particularly with legacy data centers, to figure out where to even begin. The reality is, there is no possible way to begin until you assess your data center’s specific needs.  Every data center is different so there is no one ‘cookie cutter’ approach that works for all data centers.  

Don’t worry, you are not alone – data center optimization can be complicated and confusing.  In fact, this is so true that there are many different data center optimization planning guides available online for your reference.  All good optimization efforts will begin with a comprehensive assessment of assets and needs. What works well?  What does not work well?  What will not be compatible or useful moving into a new era of automation, cloud, hybrid cloud data centers, etc.?  Once you have a comprehensive assessment of your data center you can then truly begin to form a plan for data center optimization.

Data Center Optimization Strategy

Most ‘missions’ in any industry are never successful with out a plan – including data center optimization.  Armed with a complete assessment of your existing data center, you can begin to develop an optimization strategy.  But, to formulate a strategy, you have to identify what your specific goals are with optimization.  This will narrow your focus and allow you to put your effort and resources into what matters most.  This strategy will help guide all individuals and stakeholders in their unified efforts to optimize your data center.

Next, many data centers opt to survey their clients to determine if there are any perceived or real gaps in service. It is an opportunity for clients to offer honest feedback in an effort to provide improved services to clients and maximize customer satisfaction.  With a clear strategy in place, you can begin to focus on key areas of data center optimization.

Data Center Optimization Key Area #1:  Data Center Infrastructure Management

With a clear picture of your available resources, it is time to focus on your data center’s existing infrastructure to determine what can stay and be leveraged in optimization, what needs to go, and what resources need to be acquired to maximization optimization.  

Begin by eliminating, or developing a plan to phase out, any resources that are a drain on energy resources.  This is an easy place to begin because almost all data centers can find ways to improve energy efficiency.  Data Center Dynamics explains the importance of improving data center energy efficiency during optimization efforts, “There are several actions you can take to reduce the overall energy usage in your data center facility. Virtualization and consolidation are two techniques which tend to “densify” your infrastructure, and can sometimes lead to energy savings by eliminating zombie and underutilized servers. Coupling this with better thermal management enables operators to shrink their footprints and boost the efficiency of precision cooling systems…Perhaps the most important thing you can do is benchmark your progress as you go along.This is important for enterprise data centers, too. After all, you can’t optimize your data center if you don’t know how it’s performing. By tracking your daily power usage, specifically at the rack level, you will have a much easier time tweaking your setup…The secret is to understand what you need, and not over-purchase a system with more bells and whistles than you will ever need.”  It is also important to note that one of the most important things to focus on is maintaining an agile data center infrastructure that can easily and quickly adapt to changing demands which occurs often in data centers. 

Data Center Optimization Key Area #2:  Data Center Cooling

Efficient and effective cooling strategies can be one of the most difficult things for a data center to determine but it is also one of the most important, particularly during optimization.  Keeping data center equipment properly and sufficiently cool can be very challenging but that does not mean the answer is ‘overkill.’  Overkilling cooling efforts is what gets data centers into trouble because, while it may keep equipment cool, it is a massive energy waste. 

Ways to Cool a Data CenterCooling costs account for a significant portion of a data center’s expenditures – Data Center Dynamics notes that cooling averages ‘38 percent of total energy consumption.’  Imagine the saves that could be realized by reducing that number by even 5-10%!  Many of the world’s largest data centers are exploring alternative, renewable energy sources as well.  These renewable energy sources are not only more eco-friendly but they are a sustainable way to move your data center into the future while maximizing energy efficiency through improved cooling.

Data Center Optimization Key Area #3:  Efficient Management of IT Load

The size and volume of data that data centers must now manage has changed exponentially from 5-10 years ago – when a lot of data centers were built.  Thus, if infrastructure has not been updated or optimized to meet those demands, it is likely that the data center is not performing as optimally as it could.  And, it will certainly face significant challenges in the next few years as these demands only grow.  

Old servers are simply not well-equipped to manage modern data loads.  But, the answer is not necessarily to just add more server racks because this will pose cooling and space problems for most data centers. For this reason, many data centers are exploring cloud and hybrid cloud options to better manage their IT load.  This allows for immediate scalability as needed without compromising the energy efficiency of the data center or risking overloading infrastructure which could lead to data center downtime.

Data centers that want to move effectively into the future and position themselves as a competitive data center must focus on optimization – sooner rather than later.

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