Want to know where the action is? Try the data centre

Lean, green and mean

An onslaught of tech activity has pushed the data centre to the forefront of all the IT action.

There's nothing mundane about today's data centre, in fact it fuels the enterprises of 2007.

Take a look at the big-name companies such as Microsoft and Google who are both responding to a flurry of compliance mandates that require better handling and storage of data and environmental pressures to make data centres more energy efficient.

Last month Microsoft announced it will spend $US550 million for a 44-acre lot to build a 400,000 square foot data centre while Google is building a $600 million facility alongside a second $750 million data centre in the US.

A survey of 3,000 data centre managers found 60 percent of respondents plan to expand the physical footprint of their data centre within 10 years.

Gartner analyst, Rakesh Kumar, said many enterprises are running out of space or cannot accommodate the needs of newer technology.

"That means today's data centres are functionally obsolete," he said.

There is enormous cost involved in trying to retrofit today's data centres with more efficient facilities infrastructure at a time when IT managers are trying to cut costs.

Looking ahead, Intel Australia client manager, Colin McCabe, said multi-core processors, virtualization and "green, environmentally friendly architectures" promise big savings but it won't be able to satisfy for the huge thirst for processing power.

Enterprises want grunt which may explain huge projected growth in server demand over the next two years.

Consolidation will soak up some demand in the short time, McCabe said, but enterprises will need to look for cost efficient alternatives.

He said business can reduce support and maintenance costs to fill hardware and software purchasing coffers by using multi-core processors with overlaid virtualization.

"The top priorities of data centre managers are to reduce operational expenditure and to squeeze more utilization from limited resources" McCabe said.

"Quadcore [processors] can produce consolidation levels of eight to one based on single core technology, which means smaller centres can reduce air conditioning and maintenance costs while big business could close down up to eight facilities.

"These savings hit home when you break down datacentre costs; lighting is about 8 percent, server and hardware at around 35 percent and thermal control takes up the rest, so cutting your server capacity eight-fold will have a huge impact."

According to McCabe, all data centres should be built on leading edge green technology, with provisions for server expansion and reduction, and should also have on-site alternative energy sources.

"It depends whether the business is long or short-sighted; green data centres cost more to build but return significant savings because they use so much less power and cater for future demands," he said adding that another bonus is that a green data centre is likely to meet future government regulations.

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Intel Australia business development manager, Sean Casey, said Intel plans save $US500,000 over the next 10 years through data centre consolidation.

"We have about 130 data centres now and we could shrink that to 20 larger facilities and locate them in more strategic areas," Casey said.

He said disaster recovery sites can be used to reduce processing loads in the primary data centre.

"DR sites are an untapped resource because they sit there chewing power when they could bring big savings by running half of the data centre's workloads which drops cooling costs," Casey said.

He estimates Intel's QuadCore processors can save $US6000 per consolidation per year in support, network depreciation, and power and cooling costs, compared to Pentium III based servers.

Meeting the green mandate, Microsoft's senior director of data centre services, Michael Manos, said the company is working to make everything as energy efficient as possible.

In his company's new data centres, "everything from the applications to the hardware to the facilities is taking into account how much energy is consumed. It's really about optimizing efficiency," he says.

- with Sandra Rossi