Today, demands for data centre performance, reliability, and sustainability are pushing the boundaries of physical infrastructure designs and with many businesses undertaking complex modernisation strategies, the need to simplify the design and specification process has become ever more pressing.
Key drivers of data centre modernisation projects include the need for greater flexibility, increased resilience or reduced risk, and lower operating costs. However, various legacy deployments lack standardisation and need better visibility into the operational environment before such projects begin. For those that are suffering from high energy costs, stranded capacity, or hotspots, it can often require a complete overhaul of the infrastructure.
For many data centre managers, beginning with the end in mind is the simplest way to fast-track the deployment process and by utilising a data-driven approach, end-users can meet business objectives without risking outages or downtime. By first assessing the existing infrastructure environment, for example, and utilising computational fluid dynamics (CFD), operators can identify key areas of concern within their systems and take steps to reduce hotspots, manage poor airflows and address inefficient rack configurations.
Once the existing infrastructure has been assessed, data centre optimisation initiatives can begin, and end-users may choose to completely replace a legacy system if the costs of modernisation to an old or outdated system outweigh the long-term lifecycle benefits. Instead, retrofit projects can allow data centre operators to re-design the whitespace and improve power and cooling efficiencies within a new containerised architecture. An approach such as this also offers the ability to increase rack densities, optimise performance, and reduce operating expenditure (OpEx).
Key considerations to specify for your infrastructure environment
The truth, however, is that every data centre is unique in its design and infrastructure capabilities. Therefore, a key part of any modernisation program is the specification process, ensuring that any new mission-critical environment will meet the desired standard from the outset. Here, taking a standardised approach to the data centre design and combining it with a detailed structural analysis can pay huge dividends, helping any external partners or consultants to understand the technological choices, and ensure any demanding timescales can be adhered to.
Key areas to document will include the size of the system, its power requirements and its cooling configuration – primarily whether or not the data centre will utilise a hot or cold aisle cooling architecture – and the floor type, whether raised or slab, on which it is to be deployed. Specifying containment is also crucial, especially if the project is centred around improving energy efficiency, reducing Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) and CO2 emissions, or lowering OpEx.
The benefits of containment systems include improved airflows, maximised whitespace and reduced hotspots within the mission-critical environment. Further, by optimising a legacy facility with a containment system, end-users can often achieve an average PUE reduction of 0.4, which will have a significant and beneficial impact on operating costs. Other key components to specify will include the number of internal and external support arm tiers, their length, any blanking panels for the racks, and ultimately, any door configurations to accompany the containment system.
Gartner, for example, predicts that by 2025, data centres deploying speciality cooling and density techniques will see 20% to 40% reductions in operating costs, so optimising your design and cooling strategy is essential from the beginning of the project.
Build faster and better
The system’s structure, ceiling height and type are also important factors to specify, and the width of aisles or any obstructions such as columns within data halls can also influence system design and configuration. Rack size, height, and colour preference must be documented from the outset, and any customised height or colour configurations can have an increased lead time. It’s essential, therefore, for external consultants to set clear expectations and communicate how any delays to the supply chain may impact deployment times.
Many traditional methods for supporting data centre infrastructure including containment, power distribution and cable routing can be costly and time-consuming if not properly designed or specified. They often require structural ceilings, underfloor pathways and a building that can support the entire weight of the environment. Specifying the load of the system, therefore, is crucial and will influence how the system is designed and configured.
Here, pre-configured data centre systems can provide a simplified and quick-to-deploy architecture that includes infrastructure conveyancing, support and containment. Essential structures such as this can allow mission-critical facilities to be built to scale and in demanding timescales, both quickly and efficiently, including all power and cooling components.
By working closely with customers throughout the design and specification phases, through the manufacturing process and throughout installation and commissioning, infrastructure manufacturers can ensure that any data centre modernisation project meets its business objectives from the outset.