Plan for the infinite datacentre: Gartner

Organisations that plan well can adjust to rapid growth in computing capacity without requiring more datacentre floor space, cooling or power, says analyst firm.

The increasing business demands on IT mean that datacentre managers must plan to increase their organisation’s computing and storage capacity at a considerable rate in the coming years, reports Gartner.

Organisations that plan well can adjust to rapid growth in computing capacity without requiring more datacentre floor space, cooling or power and realise a substantial competitive advantage over competitors.

“The first mistake many datacentre 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, Gartner.

He says 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.

To ensure maximum efficiency, datacentre 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. A fairly typical small datacentrer of 40 server racks at 60 percent capacity, housing 520 physical servers and growing in computing capacity at 15 percent each year, would require four times as much floor space in 10 years.

“With conventional thinking and the fear of hot spots at the fore, these 40 racks, or 1200 square feet of floor space, become nearly 5000 square feet in just 10 years, with associated costs,” says Cappuccio.

“A datacentre 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. We will witness small datacentre environments with significant computing growth rates maintaining exactly the same footprint for the next 15 to 20 years.”

Gartner recommends upgrading the existing server base to thinner 1U (one unit) height servers or even sleeveless servers, while increasing rack capacity to 90 percent on average by using innovative floor-size designs and modern cooling methods, such as rear door heat exchanger cooling (RDHx), to mitigate concerns over hot spots.

Gartner says implementing an RHDx system can also reduce the overall power consumption of a datacentre by more than 40 percent. This is because high volumes of forced air are no longer needed to cool the equipment.

“An initial investment in planning time and technology refresh can pay huge dividends in the mid-to-long-term for businesses anticipating a continuous growth in computing capacity needs,” he says.

The evolution of cloud computing adoption will also provide relief for growing datacentre requirements. As the technology becomes more established, an increasing proportion of datacentre functions will migrate to specialist or hybrid cloud providers. This further increases the likelihood of an organisation making use of the same datacentre space in the future, leading to significant savings and competitive business advantages.

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