Six Sigma has evolved from a quality standard to an all-encompassing management philosophy. At its core, Six Sigma measures variation from a laid down standard. The concept entails defining, measuring, analyzing, improving or designing and controlling or verifying processes to get to acceptable standards.
Of late, lean Six Sigma has found widespread application in data centers as a means to improve efficiency. The specific application of Six Sigma methods in data centers include:
- Undergoing studies to identify usage to optimize server and energy loads. This allows the data center to have a firm grasp of what each available server does, which improves server utilization and removes unneeded ones. In many cases, systems run out of usable memory long before CPU becomes an issue, meaning that, in many cases, a simple memory upgrade could negate the need for new servers. A Six Sigma analysis could help the data center identify these memory issues as a precursor to leveraging new rack-level architectures that allow scaling up memory and compute independently.
- Tuning and optimizing the IT systems in use through deployment of smart and intelligent power management systems. For instance, Six Sigma analysis helps to identify peak hours, allowing the data center to turn some servers off during non-peak or non-office hours.
- Quarantining hardware not in use to reallocate it for new projects or to discard it if it is no longer required, thereby saving space and maintenance. This may manifest as conducting weekly audits and daily inspections to reduce inventory levels, devising a system to properly label, store and track all components.
- Eliminating wasteful practices and procedures. This manifests as employing intuitive designs such as “herringbone” stacking pattern that increase utilization of storage space by 50%, standardizing components and parts so that management and replacement becomes easy and opting for uniform signage that make retrieval and allocations fast and easy.
- Creating a culture of discipline to improve work practices and increase productivity. This may assume forms such as target setting, empowerment, developing cross-functional teams adept in multi-tasking and other positive interventions for the data center staff. This helps to eliminate lag, and errors and issues are nipped in the bud before they escalate, which leads to the standards related to uptime being met.
The principles of Six Sigma claim direct benefits of up to 50% reduction in operational process costs and additional indirect benefits from improvement in cycle-time, less waster and increased customer satisfaction.
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