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How to check ROI when implementing data centre blades

  • 12 January, 2006 08:53

<p>By Carrie Higbie, Global Network Applications Market Manager,
The Siemon Company</p>
<p>Because the complexities of implementing blade servers have spawned many misconceptions and misunderstandings, it is essential to understand certain basic principles. Implementing blades, how many, and what options to chose all depend on a successful ROI and TCO model.</p>
<p>Often in the past, organisations have taken ROI and ownership statements verbatim from manufacturers. However, equations will not balance if the stated savings are false and there is no appropriate infrastructure in place.</p>
<p>Blades are becoming more tightly integrated with storage, either in a SAN environment or as NAS, while there are new options for management and virtualisation of servers. Coexistence of the technologies can provide a significant savings to companies through ease of management and a more integrated environment.</p>
<p>One of the prime misconceptions is that blades increase cooling and power consumption. While this may be true in some cases, organisations to not necessarily need to revamp their facilities completely, and some may not need to change. Many data centres suffer from abandoned cable issues, which create an air dam and may keep cooling units and chillers from operating at peak efficiencies. This is due to systems changing out over time, older point-to-point systems and non-structured cabling. The new TIA 942 data centre standard recommends running all cabling accommodating growth, so these areas do not need to be revisited.</p>
<p>However, each time there is a large equipment change, it is prudent to re-evaluate all facilities and infrastructure. Blade server chassis can be outfitted with a variety of networking options. Typically connectivity will be either network only, or network and storage. Understanding what the needs are for an organisation can assist with this. When planning facilities, an organisation should examine not only the new equipment, but also what equipment will be leaving the data centre. Many options exist for providing power and cooling to the data centre.</p>
<p>There is retrofit gear from power and cooling companies such as APC to assist. The choice here will be dependent on preference, availability and legacy facility gear. One should not necessarily choose the same manufacturer, since all options should be addressed. What was a great solution at one time, might be inefficient today. The same principles hold true for adding rack mount servers, mainframe connections, or midrange server connections, as well as any storage.</p>
<p>In some cases, it may be advantageous to select a product that will scale with new purchases. Cabinets such as the InfrastruXure line provided by APC (www.apcc.com) allow an organisation to add cooling and power conditioning as needed which could save money as opposed to “over-supplying” facilities and incurring the ongoing expenses of power consumption for areas where that power/cooling is not needed immediately. It is important to consider recurring expenses as well as day one outlays. In all calculations it is also essential to look at management capabilities and security.</p>
<p>While some cabinets may not be completely full of servers, if processing power per square inch of data centre space is factored in, you are likely to remain ahead of the game. To determine the benefits here, factor day one equipment expenditures, cost of the floor space, facilities and then divide by the amount of processing power. This will help to calculate total equipment total cost of ownership. For instance, if I can get the same processing power out of one blade server with four blades in a 6RU (rack unit) footprint compared to four 2RU footprints, I am saving 2RU in my cabinet. However with growth potential, new applications and servers will require the addition of a blade server – no RU loss of space.</p>
<p>Depending on the processors chosen, if I divide the total RUs by processing power, blades quickly become attractive to these budgets. The servers can be upgraded without having to change out the chassis in most cases, which is another benefit.</p>
<p>While comparing the server and cabinet to other configurations, an organisation must deduct the additional port costs on storage and network switches. A 2RU rack mounted server will typically have four connections: one for the primary network connection, one for the secondary network connection, one for in-band monitoring and one for out-of-band monitoring. With a blade server, the chassis can share these connections. The additional switches required to support these connections represent a saving. While each blade may have its own primary and secondary connection, the monitoring now is limited to two per chassis rather than two per server.</p>
<p>Bear in mind that saving on cabling is minor. The savvy manager will cable some additional ports to accommodate equipment changes in the future and save a significant amount of money over costly moves, adds and changes. This also allows for better pathway management and reduction in the restriction of airflow, and lessens the likelihood of downtime for live connections when the changes occur.</p>
<p>The real savings come with the initial purchase of the added switch ports, monitoring ports and monitoring software if they are priced by the port. There are day two savings on additional maintenance costs. These will also become part of the comparison figures. In a rack mount situation, you may fill the remainder of the cabinet with switch ports which also require power, cooling and maintenance. This can make a half empty rack look attractive compared to viewing it as a “waste” of floor space.</p>
<p>The trend in data centres has been to fill every available rack unit with equipment, cabling or anything and to waste no space because of expense of data centre floor space. However, as data is becoming more and more important to companies, the most efficient calculations are changing from the standard fully loaded rack to the most efficient use of space. Efficiency will be based on processing power, cooling, heating and benefit. Once the physical comparisons are complete, the next step is to address people and resource savings.</p>
<p>These will include SAN technology where desktop administration may be reduced through a single user interface, administration savings realised through a single chassis as opposed to many separate chassis, patch management, remote monitoring and NOC resources, etc. Such calculations will be unique to each company and every situation. It is no secret that most application vendors would rather have their own server and not share any applications with any other vendors, to help lessen troubleshooting time.</p>
<p>Adding equipment equations to people resource equations will provide a useful ROI tool. Adding day two expenses with all things considered will provide a meaningful total cost of ownership. Each vendor will have specific heating and cooling requirements. For an excellent tutorial, go to IBM’s website: http://www-03.ibm.com/servers/eserver/bladecenter/blade_servers/index.html.</p>
<p>Blade servers can also provide the savings in these areas. The chassis becomes a single point of management not only in regards to networking gear, but also in regards to people resources. This translates to a direct savings in time for daily operations and troubleshooting. For more information on Blade Servers and the technologies that support them, The BladeSystems Alliance is a non-vendor specific site for end-users, analysts and others to learn more about blade servers and the technology that surrounds them. Their website is www.bladesystems.org. From here, you can find links to server manufacturers, connectivity options, cabinet and cooling manufacturers, storage providers and software companies.</p>
<p>About Siemon</p>
<p>Established in 1903, Siemon is an industry leader specialising in the manufacture and innovation of high quality, high-performance network cabling solutions. Headquartered in Connecticut, USA, with global offices and partners throughout the world, Siemon offers the most comprehensive suite of unshielded, shielded, twisted-pair copper and fibre cabling systems available. With over 400 active patents specific to structured cabling, Siemon Labs invests heavily in R&amp;D and development of industry standards, underlining the company's long-term commitment to its customers and the industry.</p>
<p>Siemon’s Australian head office is located in Allambie Heights, Sydney, with offices also located in Brisbane and Melbourne.</p>
<p>For more information</p>
<p>Alana Patton David Frost
The Siemon Company PR Deadlines Pty Ltd
(02) 8977 7500 (02) 4341 5021</p>

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