Why are CIOs looking at vertically-expanded data centers?

By : |November 30, 2015 0

Sonal Desai

The data center has been a cost center for an enterprise for a long time now. Escalating real estate cost coupled with concerns over increased power usage and rising demands from the CXOs for newer services from existing infrastructure is compelling many CIOs to look at newer options namely: vertical expansion of data centers and the right power distribution units (PDU).

Sanjay Motwani, ‎Regional Director, India, South East Asia, Taiwan & Hong Kong, Raritan International, pin-points the challenges and offers solutions to these growing concerns of CIOs, in an interview with CIOL.



What are the key challenges CIOs are facing where data centers are concerned?
For almost 99.9 percent CIOs, lack of space and rising realty prices are a major challenge.

While the demands from the data center have increased phenomenally, the size of the data center has either remained the same or shrunk. Plus the fact that the IT budgets have either remained flat or have marginally increased because of micro- and macro- economic conditions does not help much.

Secondly the demand on power, one of the largest and most important components of a data center, often overlooked over larger components like server, storage and networking, has taken on new dynamics.

How have these dynamics changed?
Over the past few years, average power consumption per server has increased with the adoption of high-power computing equipment like blade servers. The typical power required at a rack has increased from 2 KW to 12 KW and continues upward.

On-going deployment of densely packed storage, virtualization, and cloud computing are putting additional pressure on data centers, thereby increased watts/sq ft.

Technically, these technologies are power hungry and require more densely packed racks such as a rack filled with 1U servers. To support the equipment, data center managers have to deliver more power to the IT equipment rack.

Also most data centers with the legacy infrastructure cater to 4-5 KW per rack while the requirement has hiked beyond 20 KW per rack. With high volume big data streams becoming the new norm, data center managers are already moving toward high-density computing environments by deployment new and dense servers. The primary reasons cited for the transition is to save facility space and reduce energy costs. Vertical expansion along with right power distribution unit (PDU) is the only solution visible as of now.

Can you elaborate?
Most data centers with the legacy infrastructure cater to 4-5 KW per rack while the requirement has shot multiple times – beyond 20 KW per rack in many cases.

Just imagine a data center in New York or Shanghai or Bengaluru which is looking at expansion, upgrade or fine tuning. With leases and rentals hitting the roof, what is the most economical way for them to expand?

A horizontal growth will only incur additional expenses of cabling, cooling and not to mention gigantic real estate. Add to that the Opex which will put pressure on the bottom-line.

With the high volume big data streams becoming a norm, data centers need to be prepared to handle more density per rack and therefore must look at maximizing their capabilities. Keeping this in mind, data center managers are already moving toward high-density computing environments and deploying new and dense servers to save facility space and reduce energy costs.

The solution is to find ways that provide more computing power for less cost per square foot. And this can be done with vertical expansion powered by the right choice of power distribution units (PDUs).

Vertically scaling up the data center allows rapid expansion of power density by extending distribution all the way to the individual rack and cabinets, without undertaking any major structural changes.

This brings into focus a new adage that has been coined: Right PDUs and high density racks go hand in hand.
Yes, and that is absolutely true.

With changing market demands, data centers need to plan ahead and be ready for future challenges. Though high density racks are playing a pivotal role in increasing ROI of various organizations, PDUs are equally important. It helps to be prepared and invest in PDUs that are designed with the future requirements in mind.

In the up-coming data centers, data center managers and CIOs are looking at PDUs that are capable of extending power distribution all the way to the individual rack and cabinets, without undertaking any major structural changes. Increasing power density by packing more resources per rack is an obvious choice, but then, care is to be taken to ensure this does not escalate operating cost by putting pressure on cooling efficiency or increase cabling cost manifold. They are actively looking at 3-phase PDUs.

What are the benefits PDUs bring to the table?
Intelligent solutions like three-phase PDUs run a single three-phase power cable to rack, thereby reducing bulk cabling at bottom.

This not only frees the space but also increases airflow and reduces the cost of cooling. Higher voltages at lower currents means smaller cables which use less copper, weigh less, take up less space and cost less. By eliminating voltage transformations, 400 V
power reduces energy cost up to approximately two to three percent relative to 208 V and approximately four to five percent relative to 120 V.

Which means the data centers are getting smarter…
Yes, the 3-phase PDUs are smart means to monitor, report and operate data centers. Besides visibility to improve operational efficiency, PDUs are monitoring power usage, voltage levels, humidity and other environmental factors.

It is also crucial to maintain pressure and airflow at inlet and outlet level for the health of the data centres. Having a separate monitoring system for each device is cumbersome and impractical, not to mention cost intensive. PDUs that combine power distribution capabilities with smart monitoring and visualization are the best bet.

Who are the early adopters?
We have seen demand from telecom, BFSI, large R&D labs, heavy manufacturing and automotive verticals. Overall, Raritan has 70-80 customers in India, of which 12 are using 3-phase PDUs.

What are three to four key trends that will drive vertical expansion?

Customizability is an important aspect for any infrastructure that data centers invest in. PDUs that come with a strict integration framework become an impediment to easy adoptability.

  • Most data centers look for PDUs that are not only compact but are customizable to their requirements including number of outlets, phase balancing, staggered outlets, cord lengths, multiple inputs, remote power control, individual outlet metering, high-power for blade servers and high-density applications, or even 400V power distribution.
  • Three phase PDUs with a capacity to serve 65 KW per rack have also made an appearance in the market, providing data centers an unmatched opportunity to scale for huge data flow.

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