Operational issues have datacentres at breaking point

Current datacentre business practices and lack of awareness may derail business plans

Research by Global DataCenter Management (GDCM) has concluded that after years of uncontrolled growth, many datacentres face a crisis as they run into space and power constraints.

The survey of 301 senior IT influencers and decision makers, conducted by Quocirca, found that even though remedies to the problems exist, current typical business practices concerning datacentres do not encourage the prioritisation of power reduction within one of the most power hungry areas of a business. It also warned that lack of awareness of the key datacentre issues may result in firms not being able to deploy the IT resources required to support business growth.

Alarmingly, just over a quarter of firms didn’t know how many servers they had with three in ten also being ignorant of how many devices they had connected to their network. Another fifth knew, but only at room level, not being able to say what cabinet contained what rack devices etc.

Firms’ ability to locate their network equipment was equally worrying: a fifth replied that it would take over a day and 22 % would take up to a day with a taking up to half a day. Only 26% said could do it in minutes or seconds. The research however did not take into account what types of services were being run on the server nor the criticality or loads placed on them.

Utilisation was also a problem indicted by the research. Nearly half (47%) of firms said that they didn’t measure utilisation, and when asked to estimate what percentage of resources were being used, the majority such respondents believed that their servers were over 75% utilised. “This is dreamland,” commented Quocirca analyst Dennis Szubert for whom a reasonable industry average was 15%.

The other key issues in the report were space concerns and power usage. Quocirca found that 11% of firms will run out of datacentre space this year and a further 8% didn’t know when they would run out of datacentre, a critical issue said Szubert, as was power supply.

 “The lead times in new datacentre build is measured in years so firms need to have a good idea of what space usage is and when run out. 14% have reached a power limit and cannot feed any more power into the datacentre. It’s is a common situation in a lot of metro areas where some datacentres have space but cannot deploy any more IT equipment because of power constraints.” This could seriously hamper firms’ ability to grow as in some areas it may take up to 18 months to lay new cable into a datacentre. Putting this into context, Szubert estimated that datacentre power consumption had doubled in the last five years.  

In a warning to senior IT mangers, GDCM managing director Michael Evans told ComputerWeekly that immediate steps were necessary. “For a long time we have suspected that the datacentre industry is grossly inefficient. The datacentre industry is now believed to generate as much CO2 as the airline industry. There is outrage at ghost flights by airlines flying planes with no passengers around the world so that they can keep to schedules; what we’re seeing in the datacentre industry is the same thing all the time, effectively running servers with no users or just running at such low capacity that it’s the equivalent of airlines flying around the world with two passengers on.”

Evans added that tools need to be sought which can provide support in addressing these challenges and that with just with a few proactive management techniques, firms could combat this situation.


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