Data Centres: To Reduce Operational Expenditure, Bring Buying Decisions Back To IT

Data Centres

Anyone involved in the Data Centre business from design to operations continues to face significant challenges. The impact on the physical infrastructure of virtualisation and cloud computing has escalated the importance of specifying the most effective and cost efficient equipment that suits the needs of the business.

The first step in meeting these challenges is to get in front of the ever escalating Operational Expenses. However, rather than focussing on the initial cost of deployment, we need to move our focus more towards longer term implications, for example what does equipment cost to maintain and how can it help us to handle the changes occurring within the data centre? The fact is that short terms gains are not the route to long terms savings; we need to change the buying decisions, in order to reduce the operational expenditure of Data Centres and bring the buying decisions back to IT.

Moving from maintenance mode

The costs of running a data centre are spiralling and an IDC report stated that we are reaching the point where around 70% of IT spend goes on the Power and Cooling of the data centre itself. If we add to this the costs of supporting all the ‘Adds, Moves and Changes’ that are an everyday occurrence in a Data Centre, then we are fast approaching the point where the ongoing Operational Expenses have the potential to consume 100% of the entire IT budget.

This means that those responsible for the procurement and running of the data centre can spend their lives in maintenance mode, unable to look forward. However, change is relentless and organisations need to continually renew and adapt so that they avoid becoming stuck in the ‘maintenance’ money pit where resources are simply consumed on operation rather than improvement.

Bring the buying decisions back to IT

To do this, organisations have to break free of systems whereby purchasing departments second guess the buying needs of their IT departments. It remains quite common practice that IT staff make a well informed technology decision, only for their request to be subverted by the purchasing department, with the rationale that technology today is built to support specified standards and therefore all solutions are equal. If only life was this easy.

Take, as an example, a company that deployed a large core networking switch with a fully loaded weight of 200kg. The purchasing department believed that this weight was the key factor and looked for the cheapest cabinet which could be deployed in a hot aisle/cold aisle configuration. In this case, however, when the cabinet arrived and the switch deployed, the patch cords that were needed with cross connect panels, more than doubled the weight of the switch.

Apart from the struggle to get 1000 patch leads into the space, there was no apparent problem with the cabinet. However, overloading racks or cabinets has a dramatic effect over time. We know from our own experience that the cabinets can start to twist and this breaks the seals for the air containment.

Staff will suffer the inconvenience of doors that don’t fit properly, but there is a bigger price to pay for the company because the gaps allow the recirculation of the air, with hot air and cold air mixing which reduces the computer room Air Conditioning unit’s efficiency. Whilst the purchasing process saved a few pounds, the Operational Expenses took a long-term hit, incurring higher cooling expenses.

Short-term purchasing versus total cost of ownership

If Data Centres are to survive as affordable resources, IT staff need to have the planned time to keep up to date with technology progress and even more time to plan the adoption of new technology and to evaluate its relevance to the organisation. This means developing a cost justification based on power savings, cooling savings and maintenance savings against deployment costs, that is, the Total Cost of Ownership.

The purchasing decision should rest, not only, on what a piece of equipment costs to deploy, but also what it costs to maintain and how it helps organisations to handle the change both now and in the future. For example, cable deployments are moving away from onsite deployments to factory pre-terminated solutions, and moving to SFP+ cabling schemes, or parallel optics for 40GB or 100GB which are not available for on-site assembly and need specialist equipment.

It’s the short term purchasing approach that has resulted in IT budget being soaked up into Operational Expenses so we need to break the purchasing grip of buying the cheapest product and go for the most cost-effective long term costs.

The future

As organisations work through the significant changes of Consolidation, Virtualisation and Automation, the business is expecting a new services paradigm. They want instant IT gratification, always available at the lower cost. This is deliverable if the IT staff are allowed to do the task they have trained for and focus on the deployment of solutions that have real value to contribute to efficiency and long terms savings, rather than those which offer the biggest discount. With this long term approach in mind, CTOs should take this opportunity to redress the balance of power so that the correct decisions are made by IT professionals.

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David Palmer-Stevens

David Palmer-Stevens is currently Systems Integrator Manager EMEA for PANDUIT, focusing on the company’s Green Data Centre Initiatives, Intelligent infrastructure Management and new high power PoE solutions. He has a long history in understanding data centre design and optimising this for cost efficiency and power savings. David has over 20 years experience in the communications industry covering engineering, sales and marketing. Prior to PANDUIT, David initiated PowerDsine’s PoE channel strategy in Europe. David’s background is from the Networking industry with senior management roles with, Enterasys, Xyland, Cabletron and Racal Milgo. David wrote and illustrated the Cabletron ‘Guide to Local Area networks’, the Xylan ‘Switching Revolution’ booklet, the Advents ‘E-Business Strategy for Small Businesses’ and the Enterasys technology book ‘Enterprise Networking’. David has a Bachelors degree in Mathematics and an HNC in Electronic and Electrical Engineering.