8 Steps for Effective Data Center Capacity Planning
October 25, 2017


According to Gartner's Market Share: Servers, Worldwide, 1Q16 Update, global server revenue was down 2.3 percent in the first quarter of 2016, but hardware shipments were up 1.7 percent. This seemingly contradictory figure highlights the decline in prices of hardware during 2015, which in turn is mainly attributed to the rise of cloud-based services and virtualization. That said, over 10 million new servers were shipped in the last 12 months.

The affordability of hardware means that more organizations have access to faster, smarter devices for use in their data centers. These devices are housing mission-critical data and applications that end users need to drive business innovation. Data center managers need to change the way they manage resources in order to quickly meet demand for both physical and virtual assets. Traditionally, data center management was characterized by Excel and Visio files, but now emerging trends, such as Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) software and Software Defined Data Centers (SDDC), have taken center stage. These technologies help data center managers better prepare for and provision the incoming volume and velocity of server, storage, and network equipment. It also facilitates the management of the physical infrastructure needed to support new equipment through data center capacity planning.

How to Prepare for Future Needs?

In the past, IT companies and businesses built data center capacities to last for the next 10 years. However, this did not prove to be a cost-effective solution. Overprovisioning introduced idle assets, waste, and increased costs. The hardware installed in these deployments could be difficult to replace due to limited space, power, and networking capacity. Energy was not managed efficiently. Most importantly, it was difficult for data center managers to quickly provision IT equipment to reduce costs and respond to demand with agility.

More modern data center operators focus on a needs-based approach. With better planning, they can optimize the capacity of the data center to the needs of IT and business services for just-in-time deployments. Smarter data center capacity management can help them determine what they need to buy and if they need to buy it now or can defer the capital expenditure until a later date.  

Successful and efficient capacity planning can be achieved by following these steps with the help of DCIM software.

  • Step 1: Determine all of the components required for a new piece of equipment to be provisioned. Capacity planning requires data centers to consider utilization and existing capacity of rack space, rack power, UPS power, upstream breaker or panel power, cooling, fiber or data port connectivity at the rack, patch panels, and switches.
  • Step 2: Determine the current usage level of the required components and whether each one of them is fully utilized or has additional capacity. Look to leverage stranded capacity for space, power, and networking.
  • Step 3: Search for the list of capacity requirements. Ensure that you're able to meet them as well as have available resources in case of a failover situation.
  • Step 4: Create a plan for provisioning the new equipment. Share this plan with the IT, network, facilities, and other teams to gain alignment and ensure that your plan works for everyone involved.
  • Step 5: Use data to ensure that your capacity planning is accurate. For example, use what-if analysis to determine the net impact of additions and decommissions on your data center.
  • Step 6: Make reservations for all the capacities required to provision the new equipment. Use DCIM software to automatically reserve connections for each device planned for installation.
  • Step 7: Issue work orders to physically provision the new equipment. Creating work orders in your DCIM software saves you time and reduces manual error by pulling data for the work order from the asset's details. You can also add multiple requests to a work order to reduce truck roll time, and then check the status for each work order from creation to completion.
  • Step 8: Audit and accept the work, thereby updating the production DCIM database to reflect the new state of capacity utilization.

Data center capacity planning not only helps to achieve efficient use of the physical infrastructure but also helps in pointing out potential issues predicting failures improving efficiency, and ultimately providing quality business service. Planning capacities is an ongoing process because the influx of business-critical services is ever increasing.

While choosing any DCIM suite, reliable, thorough, and accurate capacity planning and management must be one of your deciding criteria. Sunbird's dcTrack DCIM software not only displays all your data center assets, power network connectivity at the click of a button, but also does it visually in 2D and 3D, making it a must-have tool for accurate and reliable capacity management.

Want to make the most of your data center capacity?  Sign up for Sunbird’s webinar Data Center KPIs to Optimize Capacity Utilization on Tuesday, November 7. The webinar will feature insights from 451 Research’s Research Director of Datacenters & Critical Infrastructure, Rhonda Ascierto, and other data center industry experts. Register now to secure your spot.

Originally published June 21, 2016. Updated October 25, 2017.

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