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Issue of February 2006 

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The shift towards high density IDCs

Setting up and managing an Internet data centre requires considerable planning. High levels of uptime depend on factors such as cooling and power. Jasjit Sawhney, Chief Executive Officer, Net4, talks to Kumar Dawada about the operational aspects of data centres, including outsourcing and emerging trends.

What challenges are faced while setting up and running a data centre?

One of the biggest problems with data centre design is sizing. The only way to resolve this issue is to prepare a modular design for expansion for near and distant future requirements.

Another overlooked criterion is the location of the data centre. A poorly selected location can create long-term problems. Factors such as accessibility in times of an emergency, earthquakes and other natural calamities, and ability to accommodate equipment should be considered while choosing a location.

Moreover, technology keeps changing at a fast pace. The life of the data centre is longer than the life of the IT equipment it supports. It must be borne in mind that technology changes require constant upgradation.

Once considered an afterthought but now coming to the forefront is the power and cooling issue. This requirement is so critical that it has become one of the most challenging tasks in a data centre.

Most organisations are going for mesh network architecture. What is your take on it?

Many organisations have deployed, or are deploying mesh networks to have a greater uptime of data centres. However, practically and ideally, it should be adopted on a ‘need’ basis.

What factors do companies consider when they outsource their IT and processes to a data centre?

A data centre must be flexible enough to accommodate technological changes and advances. Migrating from the existing rack infrastructure to a blade server scenario can bring about the required flexibility

The first is flexibility. A data centre must be flexible enough to accommodate technological changes and advances. For example, migrating from the existing rack infrastructure to a blade server scenario can bring about the required flexibility.

Next is redundancy. It is required in a data centre at all levels. Data has to be backed up at every stage. 24/7 availability is a key parameter for an organisation outsourcing its IT. The third is security. The prime purpose of a data centre is to keep data and applications secure. The organisation also considers the robustness of the technology used to keep the data safe.

What are the compliance issues on the data centre front?

The main issues are availability, integrity and confidentiality. The data centre sites are the backbone of the business. Downtime means frustrated customers, lost revenue and business opportunities. To avoid downtime it is necessary to measure those critical parameters which affect operation.

For risk mitigation, compliance includes data centre location and construction, its electrical layout and dimensioning, environmental control, monitoring, fire suppression, network, electromagnetic field analysis, operational security and safety measures, maintenance and support.

Organisations are going in for more than one data centre. Why?

Organisations are keen on having maximum uptime for their applications and data for anywhere, any time access by their customers. To ensure this, organisations would like to have a couple of data centres and thus meet their disaster recovery and business continuity plans.

What are the power and cooling requirement issues for data centres? How have technologies like blade servers and 1U servers changed data centre technologies and requirements?

Data centre sites are the backbone of business. Downtime means frustrated customers, and lost revenue and business opportunities. To avoid downtime it is necessary to measure those critical parameters which affect operations

With increased density of computing power and storage capacity in smaller equipment, providing power has become a key issue. The adoption of simple, standardised, and modular air distribution system architecture, combined with the simple heat load estimation method reduces engineering requirements for data centre design.

Expressing all measures of power and cooling in watts simplifies the process of determining the cooling requirements in the IDC. Assessing the electrical power required to support and cool the critical loads within the data centre is essential in planning for the development of a facility that will meet the end user’s availability expectations. This is done by specifying the size of the network-critical physical infrastructure components that will meet availability expectations. Once the sizing determination is made, conceptual and detailed planning is planned and implemented.

Another big change in the data centre infrastructure space is driven by high-density computing, such as blade servers. They have caused a major revolution in building data centres. Today’s data centres meet the requirements of high-density computing with fewer chances of failure.

When will we see high-density data centres in action?

The current trend of data centres fulfills most of the challenges. In terms of technology, high-density data centres have already arrived on the scene.

What role will be played by IDCs for delivering software as service?

Software as a service will be led by proprietary applications with proper architecture for Internet delivery and an infrastructure designed to support this delivery mechanism.

The success of consumer-focused e-commerce players such as eBay and Amazon has dispelled security and performance concerns. They continue to gain market share against their brick and mortar competitors. Enterprise service providers will make strategic acquisitions to gain these competencies, acquire a new competitive advantage, and ensure their own smooth transition to service-based delivery.

What are the current and future trends in data centre management?

Consolidation is the buzzword in the data centre space as well. Consolidating the goal and the needs of the data centre for optimum utilisation of resources will define the road ahead. In addition, consolidation of distributed data centres to a central location will be a key trend. Within the data centre, blade servers and server virtualisation will become prime drivers.

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Indian Express - Business Publications Division

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