Why Telco Managers Need to Think Like Data Center Managers11 min read

by | Dec 16, 2015 | Blog

The current data center model has truly become the home of all modern technologies. The proliferation of cloud computing, IT consumerization and new ways to deliver content all impact how the data center is designed and deployed. In fact, today’s organization is actively creating their business strategy around the capabilities of their IT and data center environment. Consider this – global spending on Internet as a Service (IaaS) is expected to reach almost US$16.5 billion in 2015, an increase of 32.8 percent from 2014, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2014 to 2019 forecast at 29.1 percent, according to Gartner’s latest forecast.

This is why telco managers need to pay attention to their own data center infrastructure. Why? Because telco providers are becoming a central hub for content and data distribution. In fact, the modern telco is also offering a variety of cloud-ready data center services as well.

The bottom line is this – There’s no escaping cloud computing and everything that it can bring. Multi-tenant, high-density data center models are allowing for a greater number of users, workloads and data points to reside in an ever-distributed infrastructure. With that in mind, telco managers must begin to think outside the box and a lot more like data center managers, and can do so by addressing the following questions:

  • How are you enabling your data center to support these emerging trends?
  • Did you know that the profile of a telco is rapidly changing into one that resembles the modern data center?
  • How are telco organizations staying proactive and efficient as more competition emerges?
  • Most of all – Are you creating a more efficient data center environment strategy for your entire organization?

Data center environmental controls play a huge part in the optimization process. Cloud platforms and heavy workloads require additional considerations around cooling and power management. The latest Uptime Institute survey noted that the average PUE improved from 2.5 in 2007 to 1.89 in 2011 (via the Uptime Institute’s inaugural data center industry survey), and to 1.65 in this year’s survey. Still, the majority of data centers are not operating near the upper limit of server inlet air temperatures recommended by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) of 80.6 degrees. According to the survey, nearly half of all data centers reported operating at 71 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

On that note, did you know that free cooling is now virtually mandated by the requirements of ASHRAE 90.1 – 2010? Did you also know that free cooling helps save energy and will pretty much be deployed within all data center environments? The cost structure is the real impact of this kind of technology. The kinds of cost savings you’ll achieve from deploying this kind of energy efficiency technology will help offset the capital costs of deploying it in the first place.

Based on this – it’s clear that there is some serious room for better air, cooling, and environmental controls. In fact, any infrastructure housing critical components – like a telco – and data workloads must look at new types of environmental control technologies to make their data center even more efficient.

With all of this in mind, let’s explore what telco providers are doing with their data centers, how their improving equipment utilization, where they are aligning better aisle controls, and – how they’re overcoming long-term challenges.

Let’s start here, as the equipment profile in telco rooms transitions from traditional NEBS-compliant telco gear to a larger percentage of ASHRAE Class A servers – attention needs to paid to the intake air temperatures in the environment. Why? Class A servers are not rated for as high of intake air temperatures as NEBS equipment. This is particularly important for small telco spaces with less robust cooling infrastructure and looser control of temperatures.

In addition, as loads increase, the operating cost to cool telco rooms becomes more significant. Ultimately, this increases the need for improved layout so that the cooling infrastructure can be optimized for improved efficiency and capacity.

So specifically what can telco managers learn from best practices being implemented in enterprise and colocation data centers?

  • Equipment layout in the room is the foundation for effective and efficient cooling. Hot and cold aisle configuration has now become the standard. Many telcos were set up with the equipment rows all facing the same direction. By rotating every other row, hot and cold aisles are created. If this process has not been started – it’s a good idea to develop a master plan for the room. A hot and cold aisle configuration is important regardless of whether there is a raised floor or a slab environment.
  • For the hot and cold aisle configuration to be most effective, it’s important to have equipment that draws cooling air in the front and exhausts hot air out the back. Telco equipment often has airflow configurations other than this standard. When cooling is drawn in one side and out the other side it is challenging to optimize the cooling for lowest operating cost and greatest capacity. Fortunately, there are retrofit kits available to change side breathing equipment to front to back.
  • Telcos are often slab environments with 2 post racks. The room is generally “flooded” with conditioned air. While it can be effective at cooling the equipment, it is a very inefficient way to get the job done. With more and more cabinets replacing two post racks, it is important to consider the airflow management (AFM) of the cabinet or rack enclosure. If the rails of the installed cabinets are not sealed to the sides by design, it is important to seal these vertical spaces on each side of the rails. Also – look for open area at the base of the cabinet and across the top of the cabinet.
  • As hot and cold aisles are implemented, the differential pressure between the hot and the cold aisle increases. This often results in hot exhaust air flowing from the hot aisle under the cabinets into the cold aisle. This condition elevates the intake temperature of IT equipment.

Another challenge facing telco managers is that while some changes are understood, such as the general trend toward traditional data center equipment and layout, the future is uncertain. No one knows where the industry will be in 5 to 10 years and what equipment will be going into telco spaces. One thing is sure, telco spaces need to be as flexible and efficient as possible, much more so than they have been historically. By understanding the changes occurring with the equipment and the requirements they place on the environment, telco managers will be able to get through the process with the fewest growing pains, some of which can be very costly.

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