Ark ditches spreadsheet tool to plan datacentre capacity and costs

Ark has ditched its traditional spreadsheet technique to calculate its datacentre capacity planning and costs

Ark Data Centres, the UK datacentre service provider, wanted a tool that to evaluate and predict performance at facilities, assess total cost of ownership, help plan datacentre capacity in advance and make investment decisions quickly to provide better services to its customers.

As the competition in the third-party datacentre service market intensifies, Ark realised that, to succeed in the rapidly growing market, it must consistently and correctly predict its customers’ infrastructure requirement and make the right investment.

This requires the team to plan datacentre capacity and make investment decisions confidently.

“We needed to clearly see which datacentre component was using energy and how,” says Richard Borton, director, Live Services at Ark.

Ark currently has two dedicated datacentre campus locations in the UK providing highly resilient modular datacentre services to its customers. The IT team knew its UPS (uninterruptible power supply) and chiller units generated the most energy use but it could not back that theory with evidence.

“At the same time, capacity planning was crucial. For example, a datacentre could be built for 800KW total capacity. Yet if we could only fill 350KW of that, we would essentially be paying for 450KW-worth of unused infrastructure,” says Borton.

Initially, Ark attempted to predict and plan its performance, costs and capacity in-house, using complex spreadsheets. But the team’s traditional spreadsheets system to plan datacentre capacity and costs in-house became time-consuming and could not guarantee verifiable results.

“In-house tools and resources were not going to be practical in the long term and would affect our ability to deliver products and services,” says Borton.

The datacentre provider decided to overcome its challenges by using a Romonet Software tool to manage its datacentres’ capacity and total cost of ownership.

The datacentre management software has given the team increased visibility and control over its datacentre assets, according to Ark.

But the company’s IT team did not simply use a third-part software tool. Instead, Ark developed its own intellectual process and procedures that, together with the capabilities of the Romonet Software Suite, allow the IT to accurately forecast and closely manage operational and financial performance across the business, while also managing the risk of new investments. 

“Romonet’s ability to model the designed, built and operational environment, rather than simply metering it, gives us a deeper understanding of our datacentres, allowing us to analyse and understand future and actual performance,” Borton adds.

The strategy of developing a procedure along with using a dedicated datacentre management software means Ark can forecast and manage its performance, make reliable and accurate capacity planning and better control its capital investments.

“We are already much more confident with our capacity planning. We have been able to defer hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of investment, as we don’t yet need the extra capacity,” Borton says.

Taken over the lifecycle of a datacentre, the annual savings would represent a sizable saving, he says.

But most importantly, confidence in total cost of ownership predictions has yielded positive results. Sharing an example, Borton says a control sequencer for one of its chiller units was not providing optimal efficiency. With the new management software, the IT team could identify the increased energy use and prove to the manufacturer that its product was using unnecessary energy.

“Once adjusted, we could also verify that energy performance improved as predicted,” he says. “We expect that this will reduce the chillers’ operating time by an average of 20% over their lifespan; producing further significant net savings year-on-year.

The company uses its insight to improve its users’ experience by guaranteeing actual against predicted performance; accurately providing a total cost of ownership of their infrastructure; and giving best practice advice to increase the value of their service, according to the service provider.  

Providing advice to enterprise customers has resulted in customers saving an additional 5-15% or more on energy costs, according to Borton. 

But that is not all. The ability to plan datacentre investment faster and more efficiently means it is more agile to respond to customers’ changing capacity needs.

In addition, by better understanding the performance capabilities of its facilities, it is able to manage datacentre lifecycle and channel investment in hardware only when necessary.

The team can also take faster design and planning decisions when investing in its datacentres. “For example, when replacing its UPS, we could model competing systems to see what would be most efficient in its environment,” says Borton.

While Ark initially chose Romonet Software Suite to help design and commission new datacentres, it is using the tool to calculate, rate and improve the efficiency and accountability of its existing facilities as well.

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