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Streamlining the Data Center: IT Infrastructure Trends

Challenges for IT operations teams are growing. One of the ways many data center leaders are attempting to deal with these IT infrastructure struggles is by streamlining the DC environment.

Your team may be aiming for the elimination of redundant files or data, improvement of data integrity or security, or decreasing maintenance and operations costs. All three make sense. In this blog post, we will review the top data center trends for streamlining your unique DC environment.

No Data Center is the Same

There is no “typical” data center, says Phil Isaak of Isaak Technologies, and every space is unique. He notes, “Clients have different types of hardware, different mixes of hardware, and that affects the design of a data center.”

There is no typical solution, therefore, for the following issues:

  • Virtualization

  • Consolidation of services

  • Dropping IT budgets

  • Process automation

Isaak says it is important to ask some standard questions before considering a change: “What are the project requirements? What’s the best solution for that particular client, based on their specific data center needs . . . and operating practices and budget? Obviously, the budget is a primary consideration.” Often, budget considerations in conjunction with the issues listed above lead a client to the streamlining options below.

Moving to the Cloud

As you know, transitioning to the cloud has become a popular choice in recent years, particularly for an enterprise with budgetary concerns. Typically, it entails the reduction of your own IT department in order to shift some or all of your existing data storage needs to an off-site third-party provider.

Despite the popularity of the cloud, many business leaders opt to retain some infrastructure in-house and utilize a hybrid approach. Isaak sees a multitude of strategies in his consultation work: “What is the level of reliability and redundancy that they need, in a cost-effective manner? Again, it all comes down to the cost. What is the cost of the service versus the risk of the reliability of the service?”

The Edge Data Center

Another “on-trend” data center strategy is the establishment of “edge” data centers. Interestingly enough, the edge data center has become popular as a direct result of the cloud. Microservice architectures allow streamlining as a certain portion of a business’s applications are moved to the edge of the network.

Tom Bittman writes that the agility achieved by the cloud is only restricted by two physical limitations: the “weight” of the data, and the speed of light. In contrast, an edge data center moves processing back closer to the end user and eliminates latency. The edge DC trend also translates to a significant increase in the number of data centers.

Corporate entities, in particular, are looking at the edge setup to determine if it is a good fit. In the corporate world, Isaak says, an edge DC is either a backup to an unreliably large network, or it is solving the high cost of a large network. Originally used primarily by global content providers and telecommunications companies, its impact is now spreading.

Micro Data Centers

Like ripples in a pond, the edge market is creating new demand for the micro data center. As the name indicates, a micro data center is small and usually contained within a standalone rack, complete with cooling, security, and an incorruptible power supply. This modular server system can be shipped and installed fully assembled.

The racking system utilized within a micro data center minimizes its physical footprint and creates a more eco-friendly setting for data storage and processing. It does far more, however, than just eliminating cable clutter. One Florida solutions provider asserts that companies looking for fast growth are opting to move to the cloud, but businesses experiencing steady growth are often opting for edge and micro data center solutions. See what Dell EMC has to say on the topic in the video below.

The Eco-Conscious Choice

IT is also on the cutting edge of creating more environmentally friendly options in IT infrastructure design. This is a change brought about by a desire to do the right thing, and by the cost savings involved.

Energy costs have exploded for data centers. “They’re energy hogs,” says Isaak. He says he is surprised, for example, by the number of data centers still running at 70℉. “It surprises me because it’s such a simple operational change— [all it requires is] to increase the temperatures slowly [and not drastically], and see if there’s any change in performance or reliability.”

Improvements in tech can allow the data center to shrink, but power and cooling concerns often remain the same. Going “green” is one streamlining tactic with big impact for DCs. “They’ve always been good candidates for implementing newer, greener technologies,” says Isaak. “The payback is much faster than if you implemented that same technology in a retail or office space somewhere, or in any other type of building.”

What is Next for the Data Center?

What is ahead in 2018 and beyond? Isaak says data center operators will be feeling more pressure as the level of service expectations rises for IT groups. Most will opt for the hybrid approach, mixing cloud and traditional DCs to find an appropriate mix based on the business or corporation’s tolerance for risk.

Other trends that will contribute to data center streamlining:

  • Higher-density equipment

  • Liquid cooling

  • Taller racks

  • Preconfigured racks

  • Layout/operating procedures

The physical footprint of servers and other equipment will continue to drop. Liquid cooling is developing quickly, and it is primarily being utilized to cool the chip layers within servers. Taller racks (well above 42U) and preconfigured racks are options Isaak sees more IT managers exploring to save space, go green, and automate processes if a company is busy deploying DCs across the globe.

The Streamlined Data Center

Doing more with less is not an original concept for the data center, but it is now exacerbated by calls for optimized data processing with diminishing geographical room. Server rack components are getting smaller, but they still contain the same or greater computing power, and it must all still be kept cool and organized.

Combined with lower IT budgets and concerns about a warming planet, the data center is getting smarter, not bigger. Isaak says that is the challenge: “Identifying the best way to configure all of our applications, all of our hardware, the network, and then the physical infrastructure to support that.”

Saving money and saving the planet are just two of the more practical perks of streamlining data center and IT operations environments. We continue to move steadily toward a dynamic, scalable DC with capabilities far beyond the traditional siloed space.

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