When you think of green data centers, images of saving on power costs and better utilization of resources come to mind. While energy is the core of green data centers, what many people ignore is the big impact that real estate makes.
Traditionally, the real estate in the overall data center cost has been relatively small compared to the cost of energy, electrical and mechanical equipment. This has, however, changed as of late, especially when data centers are located in offshore hubs such as Singapore and China, where real estate is extremely limited and comes at a higher premium. Apart from the direct cost of acquiring huge data floor space, you need to think of indirect costs associated with larger spaces, especially higher energy consumption. Therefore, effective space utilization is now slowly but surely becoming critical when it comes to green data centers.
The obvious way to use data center space effectively is to increase rack density. The rack design, or the way the racks are laid out, can make a big difference to the number of servers that can be accommodated. As a rule of thumb, intelligent designs, such as replacing multiple small storage arrays with larger and more efficient centralized arrays allow increasing rack density by up to 30% without any additional cooling or power loads.
Increasing data center density, however, requires much more than simply packing in more number of racks or servers per square foot. There are many other considerations at play. For instance, the cooling capacity has to match the increased load, and appropriate cabling and wiring have to be made available. All of these are done best at the initial stage, when the data center is constructed.
Data center planners need to visualize multiple data center layouts with rack configurations drilled down to the individual level. This visualization would help in not just identifying the configuration that would accommodate most servers within the available infrastructure, but it also help in understanding "hot spots" to facilitate the balancing of cooling capacity and, therefore, minimize energy consumption.
Design considerations aside, increasing server efficiency also contributes greatly to reduced real estate requirements. Methods, such as virtualization to increase server efficiency, make it possible to process the same quantum of data with lesser number of physical servers. When virtualization is done on blade servers, which, by itself, reduces real estate requirements and decreases the amount of resources consumed, it boosts the space utilization ratio manifold.
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