As cloud computing and big data become pervasive in the world of technology, the need for bigger and better data centers is paramount. Strategic planning of those facilities, from building a new structure to retrofitting an existing one, is critical to being able to serve the current and future capacity needs of operators and their customers.
DCD Intelligence has compiled research on the importance of capacity planning and the steps required to develop a successful strategy at the request of Server Technology (News - Alert), Inc., a provider of rackmount power distribution and monitoring solutions. The company specializes in offerings for managing power capacity, reducing downtime and improving energy efficiency – all critical components in the planning of any data center.
To form its conclusions, DCD went to the world’s top 15 data center owners and operators and conducted in-depth interviews with companies like Cisco (News - Alert), IBM and ING. The companies queried own around 400 data centers and labs globally and account for around $350 billion in annual revenue.
DCD found that the first and most important part of capacity planning is to understand the current and future requirements for key resources like power, space, cooling and overall infrastructure. These factors must be examined in context with the full organizational and business strategies of the company as well as its IT priorities. These elements will be the determining factors in the decision to build or purchase a facility or improve upon an existing location.
Once capacity variables and needs are determined, the next step is to figure out what should be included in the plan. Every company has a different planning process and strategy, but most plans use historical metered data to predict trends. Each stage of development should be considered, from pre-commissioning to de-commissioning, along with performance standards related to utilization and efficiencies. Risk proofing and asset management are also important considerations and ultimately, a plan should be flexible and open enough to leave companies with a variety of implementation options.
Power consumption is a massive determinant in capacity planning, accounting for one of the largest costs for data center operators. Proper planning involves data on historic power usage but also estimates on future equipment purchases, utilization rates, plans for consolidation and customer acquisition. And for many of the companies DCD interviewed, there was a large disparity between the amount of energy IT and communications administrators said they needed versus the amount they actually used. By monitoring power and cooling, companies can more accurately determine how capacity can be efficiently distributed throughout the data center and better predict future needs.
Ultimately, DCD and Server Technology gleaned some important findings from their research. The overall consensus among participants is that companies shouldn’t try to save too much money when performing capacity planning and they should be mindful of whether capacity is limited by a site or a contract. On the practical side, operators should be mindful not to plug redundant power supplies into the same circuit, and should also plan the necessary power to meet the future needs of a server cabinet.
Other important findings include getting everyone throughout the organization to understand the balance between OPEX (News - Alert) and CAPEX as energy costs increase, and to also align capacity plans with customer objectives. Using a proper process for moving things onto the data center floor can save messy headaches later on, and organizations should also switch from template-level to product-level planning as they move forward. Persuading customers to move away from contiguous expansion within a single facility is also good advice, particularly in the growing cloud economy.
Finally, data center owners and operators should plan for maximum scalability and flexibility, but also look at the reality of how much capacity is actually needed during both peak and normal operating times. And the old construction adage of “measure twice, cut once” applies well here, with planners advised to ultimately only build as much as they can afford.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi