Data centres are the hidden heroes of IT. Whether you’re running your own setup, using cloud infrastructure or a hybrid of the two, you know that somewhere out there are racks of machines that form the backbone of your business.
We’ve come a long way since the early 70s when Intel introduced the first general purpose programmable processor on the market. Engineers were finally able to purchase these “building blocks” and customise them through software to perform a wide array of functions on different electronic devices.
Since then, there have been astronomical improvements in processing power and speed. Modern data centres have to meet the needs of an advanced digital business landscape. We’re going to take a look at some of the most important ways that data centres have improved performance and efficiency as well as taking a peak at the future.
This article will focus more on the interiors of data centres rather than the infrastructure. But we do want to mention the great improvements that have been made when it comes to hardware, power supply and cooling solutions.
It’s not always possible to physically locate data centres to take advantage of colder climates, but sophisticated and modern cooling solutions can assist in lowering costs and improving operating conditions. These can include things like optimising stand-alone computer room air-conditioning (CRAC) units so that they don’t “compete” with each other in the space; or even creating ways to separate hot and cold air aisles across the area.
From a hardware perspective, the processing speed from solid state drives has been a huge benefit when it comes to the large data requirements that most businesses have. It may not always be feasible to use the latest and greatest equipment, but it is essential to upgrade whenever possible.
If you’re looking to improve data centre efficiency and processing power, these three key factors are worth bearing in mind:
Factor 1: Virtualisation
There are a wide range of benefits that make virtualisation a core strategy when it comes to improving data centre efficiency. Servers often end up spending much of their time idle, meaning that a low percentage (sometimes only 15%) of processing cycles are accomplishing work on any given day. Idle time can decrease through virtualisation as different applications can be combined on the same piece of hardware.
We first saw virtualisation utilised by servers, but it’s become common for storage systems and networking equipment to utilise it as well. Virtualisation is not necessarily the best solution for all data centres, especially if they are intended to run and manage peak loads throughout the day with little down or idle time.
Factor 2: Efficiency through machine learning
Optimising server storage systems can make a big difference to the overall performance of your data centre. We can feed practically anything that produces data into machine or deep-learning tools to improve performance. The real consequence for data centres is that the loads on systems can become far more predictable and much easier to manage. Three areas where machine learning can improve efficiency in data centres are:
- Power management – With machine learning power management, you can optimise cooling and heating systems effectively. This can help reduce electricity costs and improve overall power efficiency.
- Equipment management – Machine systems are effective in monitoring server, storage and networking health far better than humans
- Workload management – As mentioned above, this is the key area where we see machine learning have a significant impact on data centres – machine learning-base systems are able to automate the movement of workloads to the most efficient infrastructure in real time.
The above can produce real and major gains in overall operational efficiency.
Factor 3: Scalable data centre design
As loads grow, data centres have to provide additional power, so ensuring you have designed things to scale effectively can help overall performance. Future loads are often unknown, so having a design that can easily scale is an important attribute. Many UPSs are modular, so as the load grows, additional power modules can be added. Also consider the current and future density needs. As chip density grows, can the cooling design keep up? There is an increasing trend towards liquid cooling as chip densities climb above the limits of air-cooled data centres.
Designing the data centre of the future
We’ve looked at a few of the ways data centres have improved their efficiencies over the last few years, but what do we need to consider for the future? The demand for high performance data centres is only increasing in the digital landscape that we find ourselves in. With that in context, data centres of the future need to be designed with high levels of redundancy to ensure peak performance.
Another important consideration is the data centres capability for “speed to market”. The data centre sits at the nucleus of multiple digital networks, and being able to deploy solutions rapidly can make a significant impact on business operations.
Finally, the fundamentals of data centre design hasn’t really changed that much in many years. That is now changing in an era of aggressive climate change and evolving hardware. A data centre can no longer follow a one-size fits all approach. Instead, there needs to be a philosophy of flexibility and adaptability incorporated right from the outset. Building to accommodate modular infrastructure and varying power demands can ensure a data centre that’s ready for modern infrastructure demands.
Is your data centre as efficient as it should be?
After looking at the above, how does your data centre stack up? Is it designed and set up optimally for your current and future needs?
If you’re wondering if it’s time to upgrade or improve your data centre, we’re here to help. We’re confident that we can help you ensure you have the right set up for your business needs at the right price. Get in touch at email@example.com or call us on +44 (0) 203 0922 787 for a chat.