6 Keys to a Healthy Data Center18 min read
Whether you own, manage, or just rely on a data center, you’re probably aware that certain aspects make these facilities exceed expectations for efficiency and overall performance. Here are six of them.
1. A Highly Functional Data Analysis Strategy
Understanding your data’s current performance requires committing to studying and tracking the associated statistics. For example, if you don’t know the data center’s average energy usage, it could become nearly impossible to spot an abnormality before something serious happens.
Analyzing information in a data center offers numerous advantages. For starters, it can verify that the facility aligns with a brand’s business intent. A data analysis strategy can also accelerate troubleshooting by making it easier for technicians to spot unusual metrics and get to their root causes.
Committing to data center analytics also improves performance by making the facility more reliable. One of the primary advantages of studying informational trends is that people can identify issues before they cause disruptions.
2. Airflow Management
Focusing on airflow in a data center enhances both performance and efficiency. It can keep equipment from overheating and malfunctioning, plus allow data center managers to reduce their cooling costs. Some professionals make the mistake of adding more cooling equipment before managing airflow. Often times, airflow management frees up wasted cooling capacity that could defer the capital expenditure of adding extra cooling units.
You can pursue various methods to improve airflow, but with so many variables, it can be daunting to know where to start. The 4 R’s of Airflow Management is a methodology for implementing changes that makes this process easier. The 4 R’s refers to the Raised Floor, Rack, Row, and Room. While it’s fairly well understood that the first 3 levels, or R’s, of airflow management refer to implementing solutions such as brush grommets, blanking panels, and containment for the Raised Floor, Rack, and Row levels, respectively, the Room level isn’t quite as simple. This is largely due to the fact that the changes required are invisible, except on occasion for the displays on cooling units.
For clarity, Room level airflow management is better defined as cooling optimization, which refers to the process of making adjustments to the cooling system controls. If done well, this process will improve energy efficiency (resulting in reduced operating costs), improve cooling capacity, improve IT equipment reliability, and defer capital expenditure. This process is also being made easier by digital twin technology that helps visualize the thermal performance of a data center.
3. Competent Administration
A well-run data center will help current and potential customers feel confident about choosing that facility to meet its needs. Many companies hire administrators to help them get the most out of specialized software.
For example, statistics show that 53% of NetSuite administrators have 3-6 years of experience using the software. Similarly, data center administrators are instrumental in ensuring operations run smoothly and that brands maximize their profits.
Data center administrators oversee aspects such as hiring new employees or increasing a facility’s storage space. They also ensure the data center has enough on-site and remote support to meet or exceed its uptime requirements.
Additionally, data center administrators can determine when it’s time to update existing practices or start new ones. They also plan any related needs, such as scheduling time for training or setting money aside in a budget to invest in new equipment.
4. Appropriate Power Usage
Staying aware of data center power usage is vital for maintaining high performance and efficiency. The peak load per cabinet is an often-utilized measurement that’s an excellent starting point. It can tell you the amount used versus available power and allows setting thresholds so data center staff members get warnings before problems occur.
Then, power usage effectiveness (PUE) is one of the most popular ways to gauge data center efficiency. It’s a ratio of the total power consumed by a facility to the energy sent to the data center’s IT devices. A PUE of 1.5 or lower is recommended, however some newer facilities are able to achieve a PUE of around 1.2.
If you identify power usage issues, treat them as excellent reasons to invest in energy-efficiency upgrades. You may even choose solutions that offer sustainability benefits. Google’s data centers accomplish this through an enduring commitment to waste reduction. There are sensors for lighting and cooling controls, as well as to transition to high-performance servers.
Google estimates that it achieves twice the energy efficiency of a typical data center due to these choices. Moreover, the facilities deliver eight times the computing power with the same amount of electricity compared to several years ago.
5. Robust Security
A successful data center is also a secure one. Vulnerabilities can severely disrupt operations and erode customer confidence. They’re also not far-fetched possibilities.
One organization demonstrated how a hacker could use a product’s default login information to access data center cooling equipment. That would let them change equipment set points and alarm notifications. The example emphasizes how important it is to choose unique and hard-to-guess passwords when setting up new data center equipment instead of continuing to use factory-provided credentials.
A recent real-world cybersecurity issue involved a data center partner used by a medical group. A ransomware attack caused a service outage starting on April 22, 2021. Some affected parties were still waiting for service restoration in early May. Many were health care providers who could not access their work schedules, patient health records, or medical test results.
Keeping a data center safe and operating smoothly also extends to physical security. For example, you might assess current access control measures and look for weaknesses. How easy would it be for an unauthorized party to get into a server room by posing as a repair technician, for example?
Keeping a team abreast of any data center visitors is a straightforward way to maintain tight security.
6. Periodic Maintenance
Getting data center equipment maintained at the recommended intervals can ensure it continues providing high performance and efficiency. Asset tracking is the foundation of any valuable maintenance program. When you have relevant data, it’s easy to reference it and see when maintenance measures become necessary.
One positive aspect of staying on top of equipment upgrades is that the pace of innovation is so fast. It does not make sense to keep using a component until it wears out. In other words, the component’s operational lifetime surpasses its effective life cycle.
Thus, you may find that maintenance investments don’t always mean preventing failure. That’s one aspect, but the people tasked with equipment upkeep can also advise you on the best times to upgrade equipment and make a facility retain its competitiveness.
Data center managers can also extract valuable trends from maintenance information. For example, they might monitor which aspects lead to malfunctions, then respond proactively to stop those problems from occurring again.
Keep Your Data Center in Great Shape
These six areas are not the only essential ingredients for ensuring a data center performs optimally. However, they’re among the crucial considerations. If a facility falls short in one or more of these areas, it’ll be difficult for it to pay off for the people who own and operate it.
If you’re a data center customer looking for a new service provider, consider bringing up some of these points to learn more about how the company handles them. Doing that can help you feel more confident about choosing one way or the other about doing business with that company.
Real-time monitoring, data-driven optimization.
Immersive software, innovative sensors and expert thermal services to monitor,
manage, and maximize the power and cooling infrastructure for critical
data center environments.
Real-time monitoring, data-driven optimization.
Immersive software, innovative sensors and expert thermal services to monitor, manage, and maximize the power and cooling infrastructure for critical data center environments.
Editor-in-Chief at ReHack
Devin Partida writes about data, cybersecurity and smart tech for ReHack.com, where she is also the Editor-in-Chief.