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  • Kenneth Lim

Five Powerful Ways to Optimise Your Data Centre

Less time spent running your environment allows more focus on critical improvements

Optimisation is key for peak efficiency and productivity. This is particularly true for data centres. When businesses are considering migrating to a data centre, a review of how the centre may be optimised ensures that the data centre is able to provide the best support possible. With the rise in automation and the number of cloud and hybrid solutions available, data centres need to be able to fully leverage all of these resources.

Here are five powerful ways to optimise your data centre.

But it is great news to see that data centres have been working to become as energy efficient as possible.

#1 Optimise your power usage

Examine your current environment and pay particular attention to lost power areas. This is a big challenge especially since power is a large ongoing data centre cost. But it is great news to see that data centres have been working to become as energy efficient as possible.

A new study by Science Magazine indicates that while the amount of computing done in data centres increased by 550 per cent between 2010 - 2018, the amount of energy consumed by data centres only grew by six per cent during that period.

So what can your company do?

Be clear about what needs to be left on.

Often, it may seem prudent to leave additional elements on to account for potential failure or any kind of mishap. But additional units add to the heat and extra load in the room. Ensure that your decisions are clear and informed.

Be aware of what is left idle but still powered on. These too consume energy which could be deployed in other ways. If an investment can be made in equipment that senses power needs and is thereafter able to make automatic adjustments, this will be tremendously beneficial.

#2 Regularly assess your physical infrastructure Your data centre physical infrastructure (DCPI) is everything that makes the data centre function as it does which includes mechanical and electrical systems. It includes the power, cooling and ventilation systems.

Externally, the setup may appear similar to a typical office environment but it is not. There is significantly more that goes into the infrastructure setup for a data centre than for a typical office environment.

Take the power infrastructure required, for example.

A data centre requires round the clock power delivered into the centre. It is the critical element that keeps the data centre operating and keeps IT infrastructure running despite disruption. As data centres need to provide maximum uptime on all of their equipment, an uninterrupted power supply is critical to ongoing operations. Therefore, built-in redundancies such as UPS (uninterrupted power supply), PDUs (power distribution units) and backup generators are needed to address these issues.

What does a UPS system provide? It ensures that your IT equipment never loses power. It is useful for providing stable regulated power or clean filtered power. A PDU’s strength, however, lies in its ability to monitor and track energy usage in the data centre. So while a PDU distributes power, it also provides relevant data that helps you understand how efficiently power is being used at your data centre.

Concerns about data centre infrastructure are not simply about availability. It is also about the upfront costs required.

Businesses need to consider the total cost of ownership and how flexible they are in order to remain competitive. When businesses consider cost, they need to be aware not just of the upfront costs but the cost over the infrastructure’s life.

The electrical and mechanical systems are the backbone of a data centre. These contain critical components that provide stable operations all year round. The minimum requirements for data centre infrastructure elements include:

  • Network architecture

  • Electrical design

  • Mechanical systems

  • System redundancy

  • Fire safety

  • Physical security

  • Airflow management/ efficiency

It is worth reinforcing that any review of your data centre infrastructure should consider not only the individual elements but the whole. Old infrastructure pieces need to be reviewed periodically. Decisions about removal or replacement require collaboration and planning. Taking all of these into account, a modular or scalable system is best for enabling more agility and responsiveness to ever-changing needs.

#3 Conduct timely reviews and compliance Why is compliance important? With a rapidly changing business and technology environment, your customers will need, and often, demand, compliance with key standards and certifications. These provide a baseline guarantee that your data centre is secure, reliable and consistent in its service levels.

For certain industries (especially banking and finance which are highly regulated), compliance is a necessary condition and confirms your ongoing commitment to security and safety. Furthermore, if your data centres perform regular compliance checks, there will be less stress when an audit is suddenly called for.

Bear in mind that these audits may not only relate to an evaluation of your data centre’s physical assets but to the data stored. Therefore, applicable legislation may be reviewed. In Malaysia, personal data would come under the purview of the Personal Data Protection Act 2010. In Singapore, personal data is protected under the Personal Data Protection Act 2012 and likewise, in the European Union, it would be the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

#4 Consider becoming a green data centre

The green data centre is a sustainable one. Such a facility utilises energy-efficient technologies.

Obsolete systems would be removed and replaced with newer, more efficient technologies. Particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, the advent of remote schooling and remote work has increased power consumption by data centres.

Preliminary statistics indicate internet hits have surged by between 50 to 70 per cent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps, for this reason, the issue of a green data centre is even more compelling with increased internet usage.

So how can a data centre consider the environmental impact and take the necessary steps to become more efficient in approach? What does becoming a green data centre involve? To begin, examine the environmental impact of your data centre.

Look for ways to optimise and adjust your approach:

  • Equipment - What is the state of the equipment being used? Older equipment may need more energy to remain operational while new equipment may prove more capable and efficient (comatose servers and equipment on standby power often take up unnecessary power)

  • Virtualisation - This involves controlling equipment through a virtual machine that may be operated on from a different location. Doing so may result in you using less physical hardware (which in turn, generates less heat and addresses many other related issues). It may also result in reduced cost and staffing needs

  • Review what is on or active - This ensures that small, individual items that could be switched off are acted on, saving energy. It also means the possibility of redeployment in a more useful capacity.

The aim of automation is not to replace human beings but to free them from tiresome, repetitive work and provide them with fulfilling careers.

#5 Invest in automation Data centre automation allows for routine workflows and processes at a data centre to be managed without human intervention. This may involve scheduling, monitoring, maintenance and other tasks.

Automation means that a business can rely on these tasks to be completed well, consistently and speedily. As such, this increases efficiency. Automation also reduces the downtime brought about by failures, which in turn, ensures continuous business availability. 70 per cent of data centre downtime is caused by human error.

Some fear that increased automation may bring about mass unemployment or widening inequality. But reduced human intervention is not to be feared. While there may be short term disruption, there is a long-term benefit as human oversight and intervention can be focused on more strategic initiatives. The aim of automation is not to replace human beings but to free them from tiresome, repetitive work and provide them with fulfilling careers.

This is not intended as an exhaustive list of ways to optimise your data centre but it provides a good starting point. A truly competitive data centre needs to focus on optimisation and on providing the best support possible.

Kenneth Lim is a solutions architect with the Basis Bay Group. He leads the pre-sales team charged with providing solutions for the data centre, disaster recovery, business continuity planning as well as cloud solutions. He works closely with customers to understand their pain points and design effective customised solutions.


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