Three ways to reduce data centre costs


30 July 2015
Mak Chin Wah of Dell

As trends such as big data and the Internet of Things continue to gain traction in Asia Pacific, the regional data centre market is not expected to slow down any time soon.  In the years ahead, digital content is only likely to increase - doubling every 18 months, according to market research firm IDC. Power consumption will continue to be an area of concern as non-renewable energy resources diminish and electricity costs rise. Adopting some simple strategies can help companies manage their data centre costs.

1)      Reducing cooling costs through economisation

Cooling costs account for a significant portion of the energy consumption of a typical data centre as servers generate heat continuously.  It is important for IT managers to think long-term while choosing a data centre infrastructure that generates less heat. Modern day storage infrastructure makes use of economisation which involves using the outside climate conditions to cool the data centre to save money on energy and cooling costs instead of using mechanical cooling means such as air conditioning.

There are two primary forms of economisation: air-side and water-side. Air-side economisation brings outside air directly into the data centre as the primary source of cool air. Water-side economisation uses an air-to-water heat exchanger and then brings cooled water into the data centre where a second heat exchange takes place that uses the water to cool the data centre air.

2)      Server virtualisation

Data centre operators typically install several physical servers to run various applications in their organisation. This means that most servers run at a low “utilisation rate”, with a fraction of their total computing resources engaged in useful work. Server virtualisation offers organisations a method to consolidate servers by allowing them to run multiple different workloads on one physical host server. The advantage of server virtualisation is that multiple virtual servers can work simultaneously on one physical host server, thereby increasing the utilisation rate of the data centre. This also reduces the number of servers required, thus decreasing the amount of heat generated and electricity consumed for cooling.

In addition, virtualisation improves scalability, reduces downtime, speeds up disaster recovery efforts, and enables faster deployments. Server virtualisation also allows entire systems to be moved from one physical server to another for workload optimisation or system maintenance without the hassle of downtime. Some virtualisation solutions have additional features such as load balancing, failover capabilities and built-in resiliency features. Due to these benefits, virtualisation has become commonplace in large data centres.

3)      Better data storage management

Storage plays a critical role in the reduction of costs within a data centre. The following are some technologies that allow organisations to reduce the cost of managing data storage:

  • Converged infrastructure helps minimise compatibility issues. It simplifies the management of servers, storage systems and network devices.
  • Software-defined storage offers flexibility and also reduces the overall cost of storage.
  • Data deduplication, which refers to the process of finding and eliminating duplicate pieces of data stored in different data sets, is said to reduce data storage needs by as much as 90 per cent.
  • Automated tiering of storage allows less frequently accessed data to be shifted automatically to lower performance drives to save energy and storage costs. The use of automated tiering has been increasing (from 13 per cent in 2011 to 20 per cent in 2014) as more IT administrators see the benefits over manual data storage tiering.
  • Flash offerings are available today at the price of disks. Flash enables faster retrieval of information, allowing organisations to increase the performance of their storage architecture. It is also less susceptible to damage.

Cost-effectiveness within a data centre does not necessarily mean reduced efficiency. The three strategies suggested above can help ensure costs are optimised while meeting the performance demands of the modern data centre.

Mak Chin Wah is the general manager of Enterprise Solutions for Dell, South Asia.