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Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

Data Center and Infrastructure

Data center on demand – how and where it makes sense

In Forrester Consulting’s survey of 245 senior-level decision makers across Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and Australia early this year, half of the respondents say their data center (DC) budgets will grow between 5% and 10% in the next 12 months.

An additional 11% of them plan to increase spending on DC facilities by more than 10% over this period. Over the next four years, 60% of the respondents plan to expand their facilities, according to the study, which was conducted on behalf of Digital Realty Trust.  

“IT transformation projects such as virtualization and big data are viewed as the main factors driving robust development across the DC sector,” says Kris Kumar, Digital Realty senior vice president and regional head for the Asia Pacific region.

Even then, organizations will increasingly have to develop DC strategies that balance cost, risk and agility, even as DC operators face new security, capacity and analytics challenges with trends such as the Internet of Things, and what industry analysts at Gartner call the Nexus of Forces.

"Over the next five to 10 years, most organizations will need to change their approach to previous DC strategies used in the last five to seven years, as most of the world comes out of recession and the Nexus of Forces (social, mobile, cloud and information) affects technology use,” adds Rakesh Kumar, research vice president at Gartner. "Historically, data centers have been viewed solely as service delivery centers in which cost and risk must be balanced. Agility, a critical third variable, will become increasingly important in future."

The ability of IT organizations to quickly and cost-effectively fulfill the demands of business reflects its agility.

Breaking with tradition

A massive barrier to agility is the 24 to 36 months it takes to build a traditional brick-and-mortar data center, not to mention the challenge in forecasting IT requirements at least 10 years or more into the future.

The pace of technological change not only makes forecasts difficult – which leads to wasteful over-provisioning – but also increases the risk of the DC using obsolete or less efficient technologies.

A viable alternative that requires a much shorter deployment time than traditional DCs is a modular DC. From a business perspective, this also translates to a quicker time to revenue for new DC services.

DCD Intelligence, a UK-based business intelligence and analysis company, has reported that the actual cost of deploying a modular solution is “between 13% and 14% less than building a traditional DC of similar capacity, when all associated costs are taken into consideration”.

Compared to traditional DCs, greater density and more efficient use of space in modular facilities make significantly better power usage effectiveness (PUE) possible in many cases, regardless of whether a company manages its own DC or utilizes a co-location center. However, Chris Drake, lead analyst at DCD Intelligence, warns that any assumption that a modular approach always offers significant cost savings would be too simplistic.

"There are a vast number of modular products available; not all of which offer the same standards and certifications and levels of support to end users," says Drake. "As with any market, the potential savings will vary depending on the particular modular solution chosen."

Modular choices

Given the array of options to expand DC capacity, organizations must first look beyond inefficient and rigid traditional DC designs as well as modular solutions that are essentially shipping containers or pre-fabricated structures offering limited customization and performance.

Efficiency and agility should be inherent benefits in a modular solution. Organizations can expect high levels of performance based on a consistent design technique and lower capital costs based on the use of standard components, construction and supply chain.

Further, IT resources can be added to the core infrastructure within its power and cooling capacity to support growth. More power and cooling can be provisioned through a modular upgrade or addition. Like Lego bricks, modules can be basic racks with monitoring and directed cooling or more complex self-contained environments.

Incorporating even greater flexibility into modular designs, a purpose-built DC on demand promotes a customized approach to swift and easy expansion using industry-proven technologies while supporting future business needs.

Purpose-built DC on demand

A purpose-built DC on demand makes sense in many DC capacity scenarios. An enterprise may build a large DC that allows modular expandability within to fulfill future needs. A service provider may build facilities across multiple locations or expand multiple existing facilities, each with varying capacity requirements and levels of redundancy. Even within each facility, there may be varying rack power loads and tier levels.  

The purpose-built DC on demand can be a small deployment on the rooftop of a hotel; a mix of high AC- and low DC-powered racks deployed at the bottom of a mobile operator’s cell tower; or solutions deployed within parking garages and retail spaces.

DC on demand places control of design in organizations’ hands. They can combine efficient cooling technology, pre-engineering, modular manufacturing, design flexibility and expandability with traditional DC designs, components, practices and procedures. In other words, they get a purpose-built DC based on their requirements and enjoy both modular and traditional DC benefits. 

Whether implementing a new DC or adding to an existing facility, DC on demand solutions can provide annual average PUE as low as 1.03 to 1.06; reduced complexity and shorter planning and deployment time; customizable configurations with off-the-shelf components supporting multiple TIER levels, security, fire and core infrastructure; and pre-integration with DC infrastructure management.

“Our Data Center on Demand solution is more than just a traditional modular DC offering,” says Kevin St Cyr, senior vice president of Enterprise Solutions at CommScope. “It is not just a shipping container with servers. It is designed specifically with the same usability and ease of access to IT equipment as a traditional data center, but with lower upfront and operating costs.”

The bottomline is that newer modular design techniques should be a viable and critical option in DC capacity planning. Choosing the right modular solution where it makes sense can help achieve that balance between cost, risk and agility.