Creating Better Disaster Recovery and Resiliency Strategies with Improved Airflow Solutions10 min read

by | Sep 14, 2016 | Blog

Today’s data center is a truly unique environment supporting very complex business use-cases. This means working around new types of applications, facilities, and requirements. This is why, in working with complex environments which are deploying robust applications – new airflow management technologies allow for rapid deployment where retrofits often can occur over a weekend or during unoccupied time frames to minimize downtime or disruption of normal business.

This is new the reality of the modern HVAC engineer: Deploying environmental control systems which inject optimization and easier control mechanisms.  

The way we deliver applications to the organization have changed the demands around cooling, power, and resource delivery. Now, cooling and airflow control become absolutely critical.

The new normal for data center operations is to deliver higher levels of uptime, while still cutting costs. Employing this concept – it’s critical to see just how costly an outage could be. Consider this – Only 27% of companies received a passing grade for disaster readiness, according to a 2014 survey by the Disaster Recovery Preparedness Council. At the same time, increased dependency on the data center means that overall outages and downtime are growing costlier over time. Ponemon Institute and Emerson Network Power have just released the results of the latest Cost of Data Center Outages study. Previously published in 2010 and 2013, the purpose of this third study is to continue to analyze the cost behavior of unplanned data center outages. According to the new study, the average cost of a data center outage has steadily increased from $505,502 in 2010 to $740,357 today (or a 38 percent net change).

Throughout their research of 63 data center environments, the study found that:

  • The cost of downtime has increased 38 percent since the first study in 2010.
  • Downtime costs for the most data center-dependent businesses are rising faster than average.
  • Maximum downtime costs increased 32 percent since 2013 and 81 percent since 2010.
  • Maximum downtime costs for 2016 are $2,409,991.

For a mission-critical system like cooling in a data center, some form of redundancy is essential. Simple redundancy can be achieved by installing a duplicate system that can be put into operation in the event of failure. This, however, is an approach with high costs in nearly every aspect: operating equipment, footprint, wiring, transformers, etc.

Consider this, in the latest AFCOM State of the Data Center Survey, we saw that because of the big dependency around data center services, redundancy and uptime are big concerns. We saw fairly steady trends around redundant power levels spanning today and the next three years. For example, at least 55% already have – and will continue to have – N+1 redundancy levels. Similarly, no more than 5% of respondents either currently have, or will have, 2(N+1) redundant power systems. For the most part, data center managers are using at least 1 level of redundancy for power.

Like power, cooling must be a big consideration in the cloud and digital age. Data centers are increasing density, and cooling is critical to keep operations running efficiently. When we look at cooling, more than 58% indicated that the currently run, and will continue to run at least N+1 redundant cooling systems. Both today, and three years from now – 18% will operate an N+2 cooling redundancy architecture.

The N+1 approach, of course, avoids the enormous costs of 100% redundancy, but it also allows the system to operate at efficient load levels during normal operation, while still providing the additional capacity needed to handle an idled fan or motor.

Avoiding Downtime and Building for Scale

There was a recent study conducted by the International Working Group on Cloud Computing Resiliency. This report showed that since 2007, about 568 hours were logged as downtime between 13 major cloud carriers. This has, so far, cost the customer about $72 million.

For data center operators the biggest, most important potential cost of any cooling system is the failure to maintain the required temperature. The loss of air-moving capacity is a problem in any facility, and is critical to data centers. As data centers have moved to the heart of enterprises – or even become the business itself – down time can cause significant expense.

So – what are some great ways to build resiliency into your data center? Consider the following:

  • Always monitor your systems. The saying is simple: You can’t recover those systems that you can’t see effectively. Infrastructure management is a critical piece around creating good disaster recovery and resiliency capabilities.
  • Conduct business and infrastructure impact analysis. It’s so important to know which systems are more critical than others. The best data center recovery systems know which business units must remain up and which should be recovered first. An impact analysis will help paint a dependency picture around your users, applications, workloads, and critical data center systems.
  • Implement flexible and scalable systems. Always plan for the future when it comes to creating resiliency. This means deploying power, cooling, and control systems which are capable of supporting your business both today, and in the future.
  • Involve business leaders when planning around disaster recovery. As part of a successful disaster recovery plan – business leaders must know which pieces of their infrastructure are critical. Business leaders and IT decision makers should be involved around resiliency planning and helping the business recover from any sort of incident.

Remember – your data center carries critical workloads for your business. Furthermore, business operations are completely dependent on the capabilities of IT. Make sure to work with systems which help enable both business and data center resiliency.

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