Breaking Down the Barriers: How the Cloud Has Reinvented Data Center Design11 min read

by | Aug 19, 2015 | Blog

As you sit back and read this blog – it’s important to understand just how far we’ve come in the data center, cloud, and digital world. Over the last few years, almost every industry has seen cloud adoption evolve from an emerging technology to an established networking solution that is gaining widespread acceptance and deployment. Almost every vertical has now moved from test environments to placing more of their mission-critical workloads into the cloud. For consumers, cloud services offer ubiquitous access to content and services, on multiple devices, delivered to almost anywhere network users are located.

The most important point to remember, however, is that the home of the modern (and future) cloud infrastructure will always be some kind of physical data center. Today – we’re facing a digital evolution where new technologies are allowing users and organizations to be a lot more productive and agile. This has created a massive movement towards adopting cloud services. Consider this from the latest Cisco Cloud Index report:

  • Annual global cloud IP traffic will reach 6.5 ZB (541 EB per month) by the end of 2018, up from 1.6 ZB per year (137 EB per month) in 2013.
  • Global cloud IP traffic will nearly quadruple (3.9-fold) over the next 5 years. Overall, cloud IP traffic will grow at a CAGR of 32 percent from 2013 to 2018.
  • Global cloud IP traffic will account for more than three-fourths (76 percent) of total data center traffic by 2018.

This is where your data center and a new kind of strategy begin to emerge. Today – it’s critical to create a data center platform that’s no longer bound by the concept of a “perimeter”. We’re beginning to build data centers “without walls”. What this means is that power, space, cooling, and resources are all being utilized much more efficiently and they begin to span cross-data center nodes. Capabilities around re-provisioning entire user set to revolve around hardware, software, and complete data center policies. Still, to create this kind of agility and this type of advanced data center – you have to take into consideration the underlying technologies which support it all. With that in mind, as you build out your data center, it’s critical to ask yourself: Can it handle the cloud and this new kind of digital world?

There are three core topics we’ll look at here when it comes to a cloud-ready data center architecture. This includes power requirements, creating new kinds of cooling efficiencies, and using new tools to allow for greater growth.

Power Requirements

  • Present vs. Future – Resource needs will fluctuate with the evolution of the business and technological innovations. Do not limit yourself with an architecture that specifies limited power capabilities. Look for a cloud-ready partner that not only scales but provides services around their power infrastructure. For example:

→ Power monitoring
→ Battery testing
→ UPS redundancy
→ N+1 or higher power redundancy
→ Generator testing and availability
→ Utility power grid diversification
→ Local power distribution options

  • Remember, over or under provisioning of resources can be extremely costly in the data center world. This is why working with a partner that can dynamically monitor and adjust power requirements is important. Being caught in a situation where a set of racks are running low on power – or where every available square foot of space is not being used – is challenging to manage, especially if you have to request additional funding.

Green Data Center

  • Cooling Efficiency – There’s no doubt that a data center’s ambient conditions must be carefully regulated. The important point here, however, is how that cooling is being delivered. Progressive data center providers look for direct efficiency in every technology that they deploy. This means it’s wise and cost-effective to work with a partner that has diverse cooling options and is able to economize where applicable. Why can this be valuable? When working with an efficient provider, cost savings from efficiently operating equipment is often recovered directly by the user (not the provider). Water cooling and intelligent centrifugal chillers built around N+1 redundancy can offer some serious green cooling capabilities. Furthermore, many climates allow the opportunity for air-side or water-side economization. This can be further enhanced with the use of VFDs, efficient chillers, and other central plant equipment. Look for a provider which is both cooling-ready, and environmentally friendly.

Growth Capabilities

  • The ability for the data center to increase IT load within the original footprint – The need to expand and scale, as mentioned earlier, is one of the top concerns for data center managers. In working with the right data center provider, ensure that there is direct room to grow. The important part here is that this capability should span multiple sites. Many organizations are trying to bring the data closer to their users. Because of this, there is the need to deploy infrastructure at various locations. Not only should a provider be able to expand within its own walls – there needs to be the ability to grow regionally or nationally as well.
  • Using tools like Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) modeling/real-time monitoring will help create a much more efficient and agile data center built for the cloud. Consider this, intelligent modeling tools, such as CFD modeling, help to identify and eliminate stranded power or cooling. Data centers use CFD modeling to generate flow simulations using a variety of computer software programs and can provide customers with a detailed 3D analysis of how cold air is moving through a data center. This allows the ability to identify potential hot spots where equipment is receiving too little airflow as well as areas where power may be stranded. Look for a provider who offers the CFD tool for analyzing the effectiveness of cooling within the racks and aisles.

There will always be a need for the underlying physical infrastructure. This environment serves up critical resources which power cloud, consumer technologies, and a new wave of digital content. The future is showing us a much more interconnected world where mobility and productivity are critical factors for success. To get to a successful state, organizations will absolutely look to their data center platform to help them align direct business goals with technological capabilities. Cloud is a direct enabler for the user and the business. With that in mind – is your data center ready to handle the cloud?


Bill Kleyman

Bill Kleyman

CTO, MTM Technologies


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