Businesses can use data centre storage space more effectively

Friday 25 October 2013

Business meeting

With data volumes continuing to rise, businesses and organisations are facing greater challenges managing and storing their information. Cloud-based storage offers one option for businesses, and an increasingly popular one at that, but in some instances firms are eager to keep data on-site and entirely under their own jurisdiction. For this to be possible, they need to invest in their own data centre infrastructure, ensuring they have sufficient storage capacity to keep up with demand in the big data era.

According to IT analyst Gartner, data centre managers will face increasing challenges over the coming months and years. In a new report, the firm says they must plan to increase computing and storage capacity "at a considerable rate", as volumes continue rising. But Gartner believes that organisations which plan well can adjust to rapid growth in computing capacity without requiring more data centre floor space, cooling or power. This can help them realise a substantial competitive advantage over their rivals, the analyst claims.

Using resources more efficiently

“The first mistake many data centre managers make is to base their estimates on what they already have, extrapolating out future space needs according to historical growth patterns,” says David Cappuccio, research vice-president at Gartner. He adds that this "seemingly logical approach" is based on two flawed assumptions - that the existing floor space is already being used properly, and usable space is purely horizontal.

Indeed, to ensure maximum efficiency, data centre growth and capacity should be viewed in terms of computing capacity per square foot, or per kilowatt, rather than a simple measure of floor space, Gartner proposes. For instance, a small data centre consisting of 40 server racks at 60 per cent capacity, housing 520 physical servers and growing in computing capacity at 15 per cent each year, would require four times as much floor space in ten years.

“With conventional thinking and the fear of hot spots at the fore, these 40 racks, or 1,200 square feet of floor space, become nearly 5,000 square feet in just ten years, with associated costs,” Mr Cappuccio notes. “A data centre manager who rethinks his organisation’s floor plans, cooling and server refreshes can house the increased computing capacity in the original floor space, and help meet growing business needs indefinitely." The expert says small data centre environments, with significant computing growth rates, will maintain exactly the same footprint for the next 15 to 20 years.

So what can businesses do? One option is to upgrade the existing server base to thinner one-unit height servers, in order to economise on space. The use of sleeveless servers could also help in this regard, Gartner suggests. At the same time, organisations can increase the capacity of their server racks to 90 per cent using innovative floor-size designs and modern cooling methods, it adds.

Mr Cappuccio says an initial investment in planning time and technology refresh can pay "huge dividends" in the mid-to-long term. This is particularly the case for businesses anticipating a continuous growth in computing capacity needs, he noted.

Utilising the cloud

Cloud computing may not be suitable for all data storage, but in many instances, it represents the most cost-effective way to hold the information from which business intelligence can be drawn. Gartner says the evolution of cloud adoption will provide relief for growing data centre requirements in the coming years, as more organisations recognise the benefits of hosted services.

"As the technology becomes more established, an increasing proportion of data centre functions will migrate to specialist or hybrid cloud providers," the analyst predicts. "This further increases the likelihood of an organisation making use of the same data centre space in the future." The result of this will be significant cost savings and competitive business advantages for organisations which do not need to create bigger data centres, or move to a different site.

Does your organisation have a plan for coping with rising data volumes? Find out about the benefits of Windows Server 2012 and Microsoft cloud services.

Posted by Alex Boardman