Top questions to ask when considering a data centre relocation

When relocating a data centre to a larger facility, IT managers should keep these top questions in mind, according to Philip Lydford, Chief Executive of e-shelter U.K.

If your data centre has reached 90 to 95% of its intended capacity, now may be the time to consider moving to a larger facility. As many CIOs and IT managers consider relocation, Philip Lydford, Chief Executive of e-shelter, reveals important questions and answers that need to be addressed first.

Data centres are not out-of-the-box items. Has the facilities manager taken everything into consideration?

Data centres are simple -- they are just servers that need cooling -- but the electricity and manual engineering side is where the risks lie, and here the data centre becomes complicated. The first thing that needs to be taken into consideration is the location of the data centre. Be sure to avoid floodplains, flight paths, locations that are prone to lightening strikes, etc.

Have the data centre basics and maintenance procedures been addressed?

The data centre is like the foundation of a house -- if it's done wrong, it could be disastrous for the whole project

The basics of a data centre have to be taken care of for it to keep running, and more often than not the easiest things can be taken for granted. Imagine a large bank that has undergone a huge IT project for its accounting system. The total cost of the project would be enormous for things such as extra testing and extra application support. Right at the bottom of that project is the actual data centre, the servers and the production environment.

The cost for the data centre is always a very small portion of the overall project, but it is actually the most important. The data centre is like the foundation of a house -- if it is done wrong, it could be disastrous for the whole project.

Think about how data travels to and from the data centre -- is there a backup plan if someone cuts through a fibre optic cable running to the centre?

Backing up the connections to the data centre is very important in terms of both Fibre Channel and power connection -- remember to have more than one option in case your first route is disrupted, and make sure you do your research thoroughly on both. For example, a bank invested in two providers in case of a disaster but did not realise that the first provider used part of the second provider's network. When one of its Fibre Channel connections was cut during maintenance work under the Thames, the company lost both connections.

Power connections should also undergo thorough planning with an alternative option. If you have two connections from two different grids, that gives you four connections in case of a power cut.

What operational experience should a team have? How should it react to a disaster?

Does your team regularly practice what they would do in the event of a disaster? All members of the team should know what to do to ensure the data centre is protected. Usually if there is a power cut, a UPS system will kick in, which has a battery life of about 20 minutes -- that is not a long time, so it is imperative that your team knows how to react quickly to a problem.

Drills should be practiced to simulate a power failure so that a power cut could happen without any disruption to the servers. The IT team should be well rehearsed, so if there was an outage, everything would switch to the backup plan, be that a switch in power, cooling, networking, etc.

Does the data centre tick all the green boxes?

Be care with the amount of CO2 required for certain data centre designs -- it has to keep with the EU Code of Conduct. Power usage effectiveness (PUE) is used to determine the energy efficiency of a data centre. The power efficiency is the most important factor, and this is what will impact the sustainability of your data centre, so be sure to get this right. If you have a PUE of 2:2, that means you use half the power for cooling, for example, and only half is left to process the servers. Efficiently managing the cooling of your servers is key to the PUE and greenness of the data centre, as it frees up more power for what the servers are there to do -- processing.

For example, using outside air can lower the PUE to 1:5. Depending on where your data centre is located, the outside air may not need to be chilled and it blows air straight into the data centre after it has been through a filter. However, if there is a fire nearby, the filters might not be able to handle the particles being blown into the data centre, so you should still invest in a backup plan. Alternatively, in-house chillers can be used -- these are reliable and take up less space than investing in fans for outside air generation, but can still be costly.

It may be worth looking into a heat exchanger. This isolates the outside air to protect your data centre from any damaging particles, and you will not have to change your filters as often.

E-shelter develops and operates data centres for use on its own premise or a location chosen by the customer. Philip Lydford is e-shelter's Chief Executive.

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