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How to Manage High-Density Data Centers

Data center rack densities are on the rise, and that trend is only going to continue. According to a survey conducted last year by 451 Research of 750 enterprise data center users, 45% of companies expect to have an average density of 11 kW per rack or higher within a year. For comparison, in a similar survey from 2014, only 18% of respondents reported rack densities above 10 kW.

High-density data centers can be very beneficial to organizations, but they come with unique data center management challenges that need to be addressed in order to avoid hot spots, tripped circuit breakers, and other potential incidents that may cause service-impacting downtime.

What is a High-Density Data Center?

Data center density is a measure of kW consumed per cabinet. A high-density data center is one in where each cabinet consumes more than 10 kW.

An alternative definition of data center density is the amount of energy consumed per square foot of floor space. In this case, 150 Watts per square foot is considered high-density.

What is Driving High-Density Data Centers?

  • Increased demand. Today’s end users and devices demand anywhere, anytime access to applications, services, and data. Edge computing, big data, the Internet of Things (Iot), cloud and streaming services, and other technology trends also require significant data center resources.
  • Increased space utilization. Data center space is expensive, and more organizations are trying to operate their data centers as efficiently as possible in the least amount of space by intelligently increasing rack densities.
  • Data center consolidation. Virtualization allows a virtual machine to resemble a computer with an operating system, and multiple virtual machines can be combined onto fewer physical servers. Data center consolidation reduces the number of necessary cabinets, compute devices, and cables, but the compute devices require more power, increasing the rack density.
  • Goals to reduce operating costs. As data center density increases, energy and operating costs typically decrease. As such, data center managers aim to deploy more computing power in existing cabinets to save on expenses.

Common High-Density Data Center Management Challenges and Solutions

Managing high-density data centers can be challenging due to the increased amounts of power, cooling, IT equipment, and cabling that needs to be managed. Fortunately, a modern Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) solution will relieve the most common pain points of high-density data center management, enabling you to safely and easily deploy more compute resources in the space capacity you have to meet demand.

  • Identifying and eliminating hot spots. High-density cabinets consume a lot of power, and every kW of power that is consumed requires an equivalent amount of cooling. Otherwise, you risk creating hot spots—locations at the intake of IT equipment where the measured temperature exceeds the recommended range—that can damage equipment and cause downtime. With DCIM software, you can easily monitor the temperature each cabinet in your data center and visualize hot spots on a 3D floor map. Identifying hot spots is simple, enabling you to add cooling resources where necessary to resolve them before they cause a service-impacting incident.
  • Monitoring power utilization and capacity. If your compute devices draw too much power, you may approach thresholds that will trip a breaker and cause you to lose power on either side of your power chain, losing redundancy or causing downtime. DCIM software provides complete data center power monitoring of all your rack PDUs, floor PDUs, busways, branch circuits, RPPs, and UPSs so you can maximize uptime and availability. With threshold alerts and notifications, you can react before there is an issue or your customers are impacted.
  • Planning power capacity and knowing where to deploy new equipment. In a high-density environment, data center managers need to fit many devices in their given space, but they may not always know the best place to deploy new equipment. Traditional methods of power capacity planning that involve derating the nameplate value by around 60% often creates stranded capacity, blocking you from getting the high-density deployment you need to meet the demand. DCIM with an Auto Power Budget machine learning algorithm makes it easy to unlock precious rack capacity, assigning each server make/model instance a unique power budget value that’s automatically set from real-time outlet-measured readings from rack PDUs.
  • Knowing the health and capacity of all your cabinets. When you’re managing high-density cabinets, it’s crucial to know of any conditions that might pose incidents that can cause downtime, but having easy, instant access to this information is not always so simple without the right tool. DCIM provides at-a-glance views of the health and capacity of all your cabinets in a single pane of glass with red-yellow-green color indicators of the status of your cabinets. Drill down into any cabinet to get live data such as latest load per cabinet, latest temperature and humidity, and load and capacity per breaker and for each PDU.
  • Accurately documenting the network. High-density data centers can include hundreds or thousands of interconnected devices and tracking all the connections can be a serious challenge. Without proper network documentation, you cannot accurately plan capacity, perform failover analysis, manage virtual and physical connections, and quickly respond to outages. A modern DCIM solution allows you to visualize all your network and data circuits in 3D, document and understand how your assets are connected down to the port level, and ensure that you always have the most updated and accurate information. You can use circuit trace diagrams to display each hop from origin to termination with the details of each connection to identify single points of failure and decrease troubleshooting time.
  • Understanding weight capacity of each cabinet. In a high-density environment, you may have double or triple the traditional number of servers in each cabinet, making the racks much heavier. You need to be confident that the floor your cabinets are on can handle the additional weight or risk a potential disaster. With DCIM, you can easily visualize the weight and weight capacity of each cabinet in your data center to quickly understand if your racks and equipment are safe.
  • Remotely managing and visualizing the data center. Today, you may not be able to go onsite, or it may be too costly or time-consuming to do so. Having no visibility into what’s happening in a high-density data center is a recipe for disaster. With DCIM software, you get high-fidelity visualizations of your data center and equipment that is even better than being there because it overlays live sensor readings. From your office or your home, you can easily select a row of cabinets, see all the equipment in the row, and know the power and environmental data of each cabinet. When you need to deploy new equipment, you’ll know exactly where to send the technician.

Bringing It All Together

High-density data centers offer many benefits, but they need to be managed properly in order to successfully meet the demand of services while maintaining uptime. To achieve this, data center managers require second-generation DCIM that is fast to deploy, easy to use, and complete to relieve the many pain points of high-density data center management.

For more information, watch our presentation “High-Density Data Centers Require 2nd Gen DCIM” during Cabling Installation & Maintenance’s vendor roundtable “High-Density Networking Demands and Solutions.”

Want to see for yourself how Sunbird’s second-generation DCIM software can help you manage your high-density data center? Test drive Sunbird’s DCIM today.

 

 

October 20, 2020
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