Designing & Deploying 21st Century Data Centers—Part 2

By Glenn Rhodes, Senior Director, Data ONTAP Marketing, NetApp

B1Y8J4OCAAA2cVQ.jpgOperating a modern data center doesn’t just mean ensuring that applications and systems are available at all times. It means doing that while also keeping costs down and reducing energy consumption.

Many companies today are being driven by a new set of business realities. IT is under nearly constant scrutiny by finance departments and senior executives to keep costs under control. And as a result, they’re speeding up efforts to reduce and optimize capital and operational spending in the data center.

In addition to the cost restraints, IT in recent years has been facing growing pressure to operate more environmentally efficient infrastructures. “Green IT” not only results in lower energy bills for companies, but it can put organizations in a more positive light in terms of corporate responsibility and sustainability.

With these multiple forces at work, a growing number of enterprises are turning to new approaches and technologies, such as server and desktop virtualization, storage clustering, flash storage and cloud-based services, which can make their IT infrastructure more efficient.

Such newer approaches to data storage can clearly help organizations run more energy-efficient and less costly data centers.

These modernized data center facilities operate with smaller carbon and floor space footprints, and are easier to manage and at a lower cost. At the same time, these technologies are offering higher performance, improved availability and better ease of use.

Well known, server and desktop virtualization technologies can have a huge impact on data center costs and energy consumption too.

Storage clustering is another way organizations can cut costs and save energy in the data center. Clustered storage involves the use of two or more storage nodes that work together to boost performance, capacity and reliability. It distributes workloads to each server, oversees the transfer of workloads between servers and provides users with access to all files from any server—regardless of where the file is physically located.

Flash is yet another technology that’s having a huge impact on data storage. Within the past year or so, new storage platforms that are designed specifically for flash media have begun to expand their scalability and data service offerings, according to research firm IDC, setting up these all-flash-array (AFA) platforms as potential replacements for traditional enterprise storage systems.

The benefits of AFAs include not only performance, IDC says, but secondary economic advantages are feasible as well. Far fewer devices are needed to meet storage performance requirements, which creates reductions in energy and floor-space consumption and lowers software licensing costs. All of this translates to lower total cost of ownership (TCO).

Finally, cloud-based models are enabling enterprises to deliver IT services to users much more efficiently. By moving data and storage to public, private or hybrid cloud environments, companies can potentially reduce their data storage requirements by as much as 50%.

Cloud services, like server and desktop virtualization, are revolutionizing the way organizations think about data centers and storage. With these technologies, the traditional data center concept—based on aging and inefficient physical servers that were owned and maintained by organizations at great expense—is going away.

More businesses are coming to understand that the approach of adding more disks and storage systems might satisfy demand, but it’s also increasing power, cooling and space requirements. The latest storage and computing technologies are delivering the kind of cost and energy efficiencies that senior business executives are requiring from IT, and technology leaders need to explore these options.

The need for more energy-efficient and economical data centers will only grow as companies launch big data and analytics initiatives, fueled in part by the growth of mobile technology and social media endeavors, that gobble up resources in a hurry.

It’s imperative that CIOs and other IT leaders explore how they can transform their organization’s data center so that it not only delivers continuous availability and security, but the cost savings and energy efficiency that the business side of the house is demanding.