Are you in control of your data center?

I have been in the IT business for more than 30 years from managing large IT infrastructure migrations, to moving data centers to helping to design them and managed their construction. During all these years, I have seen a lot of surprising and amazing infrastructures to say the least… I have come across many data center projects that made me wonder why they were started in the first place. It isn’t that the needs weren’t there, but rather the fact that the initial hypotheses were wrong or the information was incomplete. The result: The needs were poorly explained to the engineers and the planning was deficient.

In the following, I propose a couple of rules to follow regarding data centres,

Rule #1: Make sure people understand each other

When a French speaking person speaks to an English speaking person, at least one of them must speak and understand the other person’s language or they must hire a translator. The same principle applies for a Data Center project. The engineer must be able to understand the IT specialist and their needs. Moreover, the IT specialist must be aware where the technology will be in 4 – 5 years down the road and if at the end of the construction project, the data center really meets the requirements. A data center isn’t built for today’s needs! A Data Center must be able to last at least 15 years and must be able to evolve over those years.
Ex: Intel will come out with new technology next year that will be adopted by Vmware that could change multiple factors in your data center… Is the IT specialist aware of this? The engineering firm is rarely tracking those changes in the IT industry. It is the responsibility of the requester to expose the needs correctly and clearly.
How many times have you heard the following from clients? They designed it wrong or they didn’t get me the proper specifications!

So you need:
1. A multi-year vision
2. To clearly define your needs
3. To make sure the other party understands them.

Rule #2: Start small before redesigning your data center

Before you even start with a vision, make sure you have a clear picture of your actual assets. Adopt a phase approach that will get you where you want to go in your data center project upgrade.

• Clean up your environment: make sure that you don’t carry a dead horse, which means equipment that is still running but not processing anything because it’s been decommissioned a few years ago!
• Try to consolidate using virtualization? It is less expensive than building a new data center!
• One last piece of advice before taking your pen to layout your new data center: use some manufacturer accessories that could help you remove hot spots such as directional air flow tiles, rack air removal door with built in chimneys that throw hot air into the plenum! Containment is also sometimes a solution for your air conditioning issues.

Some of these ideas may expand the life of your data by a few years! I know, it’s not sexy, but it will allow you enough time to plan for the best solution. Over the next couple of months, I am planning to write on many topics that I have come across in my multiple mandates around data centers. I believe that had my customers considered some of these elements, many headaches would have been avoided.

So, what do you do first? Get in control of your data center: Understand your assets! Understand the relationship between the elements in it as well as the ownership of every one of these elements. Some of you might be using a spreadsheet while others are using an enterprise solution. I have not come across a single company that was able to manage a 20 cabinets or more data center efficiently using a spreadsheet as the only tool. How many attributes do you have to input in this spreadsheet if you have 20 cabinets? More than a thousand for sure and that isn’t counting the interrelation between them! Ideally, only one person must be using this spreadsheet …as a result the information is of value only to one person!

If you need to expand or design a new data center, what kind of information will you need to provide the engineering firm or the IT specialist so you can have a successful project? Is it in this spreadsheet or will you have to collect more data? The next article will introduce ways to represent your data center and really help you manage it.

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