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Plan for the 'infinite datacentre' in advance, says Gartner

Archana Venkatraman

Increasing demands on enterprise IT is forcing datacentre managers to increase computing and storage capacity at a considerable rate, according to Gartner.

The research firm said enterprises that plan datacentre capacity well can adjust to rapid growth in computing capacity without having to add more datacentre floor space, gaining a competitive advantage.

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“The first mistake many datacentre managers make is to base their estimates on what they already have, extrapolating out future space needs according to historical growth patterns,” said David Cappuccio, research vice president at Gartner.

“This seemingly logical approach is based on two flawed assumptions: that the existing floor space is already being used properly and usable space is purely horizontal,” he said.

Cappuccio said datacentre growth and capacity should be viewed in terms of computing capacity per square foot, or per kilowatt, rather than a simple measure of floor space, to ensure maximum efficiency. 

A datacentre manager who rethinks his organisation’s floor plans, cooling and server refreshes can house the increased computing capacity in the original floor space, and help meet growing business needs indefinitely without a big strain on IT budgets, Cappuccio said.

“We will witness small datacentre environments with significant computing growth rates maintaining exactly the same footprint for the next 15 to 20 years,” he said.

A fairly typical small datacentre – comprising 40 server racks at 60% capacity, housing 520 physical servers and growing in computing capacity at 15% each year – would require four times as much floor space in 10 years, considering the current pace of IT demands, the research firm estimated.

With conventional datacentre infrastructure thinking and with the fear of hot-spots at the fore, these 40 racks, or 1,200 square feet of floor space, become nearly 5,000 square feet in just 10 years, with added associated costs, Cappuccio warned.

As strain on IT increases, Gartner recommended upgrading the existing server base to thinner 1U (one unit) height servers or even sleeveless servers, while increasing rack capacity to 90% on average by using innovative floor-size designs and modern cooling methods, such as rear door heat exchanger cooling (RDHx), to mitigate concerns over hot-spots.

Implementing an RHDx system can also reduce the overall power consumption of a datacentre by more than 40%, since high volumes of forced air are no longer required to cool the equipment.

“An initial investment in planning time and technology refresh can pay huge dividends in the mid-to-long term for businesses anticipating a continuous growth in computing capacity needs,” said Cappuccio.

The evolution of cloud computing adoption will also provide relief for growing datacentre requirements and, as the technology becomes more established, an increasing proportion of datacentre functions will migrate to specialist or hybrid cloud providers.

This further increases the likelihood of an organisation making use of the same datacentre space in the future, generating significant cost savings and competitive business advantages, according to Gartner.


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