The future of DCIM


26 October 2014
Data Centre

Future proofing a data centre may not be an easy task, but developments in areas such as data centre infrastructure management (DCIM) and free cooling, together with the promulgation of green data centre standards, will help mould it into a more energy-efficient entity.

Sharing some of his insights into the Singapore data centre industry, James Young, Director, Data Centre, Asia Pacific, CommScope, noted that multinational corporations (MNCs) and enterprises are making Singapore a primary choice for setting up their data centre operations. The country’s strategic location gives these companies easy access to other parts of Southeast Asia, and its advanced telecommunication infrastructure provides low latency and highly available international communications which are vital links for international commerce. Stable political and economic conditions support a pro-business environment, and it has a large pool of talent, particularly highly-skilled IT equipment professionals vital to the support and maintenance of the data centre industry.

The country’s ambition to become a data centre hub will get a further boost with plans by its Infocomm Development Authority to construct a data centre park that could provide up to 105,000 sq m of rackable space by 2016.

However, data centre operators here, like their counterparts in many other parts of the world, continue to struggle to meet demand, manage costs and maximise uptime while trying to rein in escalating energy costs and better manage space and capacity.

The energy challenge is particularly pressing in Singapore, where it is estimated that data centres could consume as much as 7 per cent of all electrical energy in Singapore in the near future. This is much higher than any other country in the world, Young noted.

Electricity accounts for more than 50 per cent of the cost of running a typical data centre here, and this is not helped by the fact that the design and operations of Singapore data centres tend to be very traditional. “Many still believe that Singapore’s unique climate of high temperatures and humidity makes data centres unable to adopt free cooling.  This becomes an excuse to accept that data centres in Singapore are destined to be more energy-intensive,” said Young.

It is an important issue that will have to be addressed if Singapore is to achieve its hub ambitions. As he pointed out, “Average power densities and power usage effectiveness (PUE) of 2.1 are not going to be competitive when compared to other competitive computing environments around the world.”  

Recognising this, the Singapore government has been actively promoting the adoption of green data standards. Rebates are offered to companies whose data centres meet the country’s SS564 Green Data Centre Standard, and S$100million has been set aside to fund R&D initiatives to encourage efficient use of energy in buildings and greener data centre operations.

“In a market where land and rental costs are high due to a small land area, energy efficiency and cooling innovation could provide important solutions,” said Young.

He believes that approaches such as free cooling, which makes use of external air, should not be discounted. The reality is that the industry in general is moving to adopt technologies that will enable free cooling for many parts of the world – even Singapore, he said, and  IT equipment manufacturers are now developing equipment that are reliably operated at higher temperatures and humidity levels.

Other developments that are already helping to drive greater energy efficiency in the data centre include virtualisation, which helps optimise the use of IT equipment and reduce energy consumption; and the emergence of “purpose-built” next-generation data centres which are packed with higher capacity and much greater efficiency than what is found in legacy environments.

Managing the capacity of the data centre – the ability of the IT equipment to do useful work compared to the power that it consumes –will be the next step in operational effectiveness.

Technology developments such as DCIM can help to ensure that data centres are operating optimally and efficiently while keeping up with green standards for data centres, sad Young. The latest advancements in this space provide the capability to measure IT outputs and computing resource power inputs and, most importantly, allow the modelling of improved operating designs. But DCIM will have to do much more.

“The early view of DCIM which is confined to power and cooling management must be expanded to capture the evolution of the data centre,” said Young.  What will be needed going forward are DCIM suites that encompass the IT equipment as well as facilities resources. These should be able to integrate the data available from different sources such as facility management or building management systems and combine this with many other rich sources of data such as server, network and storage management systems to facilitate information management and pave the way for greater automation. 

“Many data centre operators believe that this is the future for DCIM,” said Young.