If you’re being completely honest, what part of your infrastructure would you say is lacking? More than 300 plus IT professionals recently got the opportunity to chime in on the subject. According to power management firm Eaton, who commissioned the survey, only 36 percent of respondents said they felt confident about the future-proofing component of their data center environment. The reason being a lack of power management knowledge.
What is Future-Proofing?
Before we get too deep, let’s talk a little about future-proofing and what it means in IT terms. In the past, it was primarily defined as taking steps to prevent a piece of technology or system from becoming obsolete before you’ve gotten your money’s worth.
If the death of enterprise staples like Windows XP and SQL Server 2005 taught us anything, it’s that even the most useful technology eventually becomes obsolete because of technological innovations. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it does speak to the importance of prepping for tomorrow.
Future-proofing has taken on a new meaning in our fast-paced digital world. Instead of outpacing the inevitable, it’s become a game of planning and life cycle management. It’s really the strategy to making investments that allow you to maximize your IT resources. With that in mind, let’s dive into how you can bulletproof your data center for tomorrow.
Plan the Ideal Data Center
The first step in future-proofing your data center is mapping out a game plan. I know it’s sort of cliché to say, but planning truly is critical to the success of any project. The planning stage is when you determine just how equipped your IT systems and applications need to be to successfully adapt to technological change. During this process we’ll evaluate each component for its degree of these four characteristics:
Usability in this context means your infrastructure not only retains its functional value, but continues to operate at a level that meets business performance, security, and compliance standards.
Scalability enables you to tap into infrastructure resources that accommodate future growth and rapidly changing business demands.
Flexibility speaks to your infrastructure’s ability to support a diverse mix of technologies and manage upgrades with relative ease.
Cost efficiency simply means your infrastructure is optimized in a way that provides the aforementioned advantages within your budget.
Applying these criteria, your task is to identify where your systems are falling short, and more importantly, understand exactly where you need to be in terms of optimizing the above components.
With the plan all laid out, it’s time to start building that future-friendly data center. This part is all about obtaining the hardware, software, and other technology needed to bring your plan to fruition. Of course, a lot of the essentials are specific to your business, but every organization needs the following data center features:
Cabling: If there’s one building block that requires long-term planning, it’s cabling. Your cabling system directly affects the speed, performance, and reliability of the network. It has a huge impact on your daily operations. Whether your cable is copper or fiber, making a smart investment in cabling today can keep your infrastructure thriving 10 to 15 years down the line.
Power: Server hardware. Networking equipment. Cooling systems. The constant running of your components will make electricity the most costly of all data center expenses. Choosing energy-efficient power supplies can provide flexibility that supports expansion needs. In addition, it can protect your budget against rising electricity costs caused by your infrastructure in the future.
Server space: As the demands of your setup grow, so will the requirements of your server room. Your choice in racks and cabinets will go a long way in maximizing the space at your disposal. At the bare minimum, these components should accommodate the addition of cabling, cooling extensions, and other accessories that may need to be implemented over time.
Data center demands are steadily changing as businesses grow and technology evolves. The key to an optimal data center environment is designing an infrastructure that can support that evolutionary transition with minimal effort.
Secure the Fort
In order to ensure the continuity of business now and in the future, you need rock-solid protection in and outside the data center. Examples of robust physical security include:
Roof and vent protection
Building alarms and monitoring systems
Biometric access control
Cybersecurity is equally important, but software-based technology is one of those things that just can’t outrun obsolescence. You will likely have to upgrade your anti-malware solutions and encryption schemes many times over the course of the next decade. That’s not a problem when your infrastructure is designed to accommodate transition in a seamless and cost-effective fashion.
Tap into the cloud
Some may still call it it a gimmick or just a catchy buzzword. But the power of cloud computing can no longer be ignored. According to IDC, cloud-based investments will account for at least 50 percent of IT spending by 2018. The firm also predicts that by 2020, these investments will make up 60 to 70 percent of all spending on software, services, and IT in general.
At the most basic level, the cloud arms businesses with unparalleled flexibility and scalability. On a grander scale, it provides the type of agility that positions you to rapidly respond to business demands, which is essentially what this future-proofing stuff is all about. Whether it’s deploying enterprise applications, spinning up new servers on-demand, or just tapping into additional capacity for storage needs, the cloud can give your infrastructure the four characteristics we outlined as being so vital to long-term data center planning.
When it comes to IT, future-proofing isn’t about pouring money into technology to avoid change, or even preventing having to buy new technology down the road. It’s more like an ongoing strategy that must be implemented to continually maximize your flexibility as technology evolves. Change is inevitable.
Future-Proofing Your Data Center
Anticipating the additional data center loads needed to cope with the ever-increasing demands of new technologies is essential to future-proofing your data center. These five tips can help you minimize downtime, reduce costs and provide cost-effective alternatives to time-consuming upgrades.
- Cabling and Infrastructure
Installing more cabling and infrastructure capacity is key when designing a future-proofed data center. Maximize your upfront cabling investment by designing your data center to support application demands for the next 10–15 years. Future-proof cabling recommendations:
Category 6A or higher
500 MHz usable bandwidth for extended headroom
10 Gigabit Ethernet support
ISO/IEC OM4 cable
10 Gigabit Ethernet distance – 550 meters
40/100 Gigabit Ethernet distance – 150 meters
- Power and Cooling
As energy costs fluctuate, building sustainability and efficiency into your data center gives you the best chance to protect yourself against future price increases. Installing the right power and cooling products can help you achieve significant energy efficiencies.
Right size power equipment to the IT load to add flexibility to expand when needed
Install power conversion-free products when possible.
Improving airflow in your data center can affect cooling and at many times is a lower cost alternative than installing additional air conditioners. To improve your cooling efficiencies, follow these best practices:
Adhere to published industry standards best practices
Deploy a hot and cold aisle data center layout
Install fully ducted containment solutions
Use variable speed, fans, pumps and chillers
Take advantage of free cooling by using air and water side economizers
Passive containment solutions
Hot and cold aisle containment
Close-coupled in-row cooling
Enclosure-based heat exchangers.
- Racks and Cabinets
The proper racks and cabinets will help increase efficiency as well as sustainability. Your base racks should have the ability to bear increasing density demands over time and support the addition of accessories such as cable or thermal management.
Recommendations to maximize your investment:
78 percent perforated doors
Width to fit Cat 6A cable and cable management
Extensive cable management
Security system with locks and audit trail capture
Conversion of four-post racks into enclosures
- Physical Security
The physical security of your data center and its critical assets should be as rigorously planned as the data center itself. We advocate a four-layered approach that includes the following:
Computer room controls
Addressing each of these layers provides comprehensive and integrated protection from the facility’s perimeter to the cabinets in the data center.
- Management and Monitoring
Monitoring your environment (such as temperature, humidity, power and cooling) along with efficiently managing your power load can help you optimize your infrastructure resources to meet your business demands. By effectively monitoring and managing your data center, you can right size your equipment to extend its life span while increasing energy and cost savings.