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Data Center Assessments: The First Step to Optimization

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Meeting mandates for efficiency . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Survey . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Realizing return on investment (ROI) in projects . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 A basic capacity survey . . 3 Optimizing the IT architecture . . . . . . 5 Analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Elements of a good assessment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Thermal quick assessments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Types of facility infrastructure assessments—examples of scopes of services and deliverables . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 The cost of assessments . . . . . . . . . . 6 Types of assessments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Appendix A . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 The problem . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 The solution . . . . . 10 Thermal comprehensive assessments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Table of contents Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 The benefit of assessments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Recommendations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 An infrastructure condition and capacity survey . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

and can’t do • Where investment gives the greatest returns A well designed facility infrastructure assessment provides the facts needed for informed decision making. or the availability of their data centers. the software driving your digital camera). Yet the central focus of organizations is often the acquisition and deployment of the IT architecture equipment and systems with little thought given to the structure and space in which it is to be housed. 3 . but is required in this day and age. and software are now an integral part of company offerings. on-line real time quotes from your car insurance company). and over and under-sizing the facility infrastructure systems needed to support the IT infrastructure. Management then can make informed decisions based on facts. built. system overloading and other issues that threaten or prevent the realization of the return on the investment in the IT systems. This leads to the inability to: • Support a change in the business strategy • Optimize the IT architecture with equipment refreshes. which minimizes waste in the form of misdirected investment. in personal terms. in business terms. serviced. or through consolidation and virtualization • Meet corporate mandates for efficiency • Realize the return on investment (ROI) as used in justifying upgrade projects Missing any one of these business drivers can range from. utilization. The problem Many data center managers and operations directors do not know the capacity.Introduction Data centers are large. which is the resources a data center manager needs to redirect and re-deploy to effectively manage change. The ability to react to changes in the business environment quickly and effectively is not only a competitive advantage. lack of UPS (uninterruptible power supply) rack power. Understanding your capacity and utilization levels helps you understand your margin. and operated. “a career changing event” or. The solution is to understand fully the capacity of the data center to support “mission critical loads” (the IT infrastructure). unrealized investment returns. Good management decisions rest on knowing: • What you have • What it can. the availability (“uptime” potential) of the data center. systems. lack of redundancy. not the exception. The speed of business today is approaching real time. important investments that. either in distinct products (that is. and change is the constant. This invariably leads to facility infrastructure problems such as thermal “hot spots”. and the condition of the key facility components and systems. are an integral part of the business strategy driving the success of any enterprise. when properly designed. and maintained. a lost opportunity to contribute significantly to the success in achieving a business strategy. The solution Supporting a change in the business environment: A well-designed and executed assessment supports the ability to respond to a change in the business environment. IT processing. or services (that is. which leads to better direction of resources to close the known gaps between “what is” and “what should be” in systems reliability.

More bytes of processing can be obtained per dollar invested than ever before. This has lead to large amounts of equipment with very low utilization levels (10-20% is not uncommon). This is where the real “work” of a data center is being performed. Knowing what the utility capacity is through a power survey and how much of that is being used for just the IT equipment facilitates the ability to identify the systems that should be targets for efficiency improvement. Instead of seeing a reduction in the size of IT platforms due to increased processing capacity in ever-smaller footprints. and the gaps that must be closed as part of the project to insure success.Optimizing the IT architecture Let’s face it. and there are multiple UPS modules in the system supplying redundancy. the cost of computing has gone down markedly. A well designed and executed assessment will identify both the strengths of a data center facility infrastructure that can support the optimization project. the number of platforms and systems has increased to meet business demands. This simple step may be counter-intuitive. to the electricity needed to run the IT infrastructure systems and platforms. The solution has been to consolidate the applications on servers to drive up the utilization through “virtualization” and to refresh technology through new equipment deployments that drive up processing capacity more efficiently. Meeting mandates for efficiency Going green is not just good business in the 21st century. it is becoming a corporate and government mandate. Environmental or energy efficiency is as equally important as knowing how the data center can provide the flexibility to respond to changing business directions. for example. 4 . Efficiency in a data center is ultimately the ratio of the electrical power being delivered to a data center at the utility service. the analysis of the data gathered in the survey might suggest shutting down one redundant module to achieve a higher efficiency. With this drop in actual processing costs has come a concurrent increase in the thirst of companies for more processing capacity as the software applications become key to business products and business efficiency. but the management decision to do so would be supported by the facts discovered and analyzed in the assessment. Knowing the ability of a given data center or data center space to support these consolidation and optimization efforts is key to realizing the value of the investment and attaining the project goals. an assessment finds that the UPS system is significantly oversized for the size of the data center IT equipment load. If. which means a lot of equipment is being used ineffectively and inefficiently.

They all have common elements which should be clear when their scopes of work (SOW’s) are presented for consideration in purchasing or conducting an assessment service. The result is equipment that operates in a degraded mode because it is too hot (not enough cooling capacity). This may involve a high-level review of existing site documentation. IT systems and software represent a significant allocation of company resources. all of which should be in the assessment report are: • Survey • Analysis • Recommendations Survey A survey may take many forms but is essentially a review of information. It is frequently conducted on site. security. systems. or insufficient space (no rack space that fits manufacturer’s requirements). which can result in and unrealized return on the investment when the new equipment or systems cannot be supported adequately by the facility infrastructure. both of which act to drive down the ROI. Frequently. maintenance practices. the result is loss of anticipated processing capacity. or the software upgrade. software capabilities. The results of the survey are the “findings” which are the facts that are objective and generally agreed to on which the analysis will be performed. equipment specifications. valid facts on which to base the analysis and recommendations necessary for sound management decision making. and so on. the projects focus on one aspect. facility. These elements. Investments in projects to improve. though some surveys can be done remotely given the power of the internet and digital information processing (that is. Due to the unforeseen constraints. software. or IT infrastructure systems. cooling. 5 . A well designed and executed assessment provides the information for an accurate ROI because it will identify all the factors that need to be addressed in the investment to fully realize the anticipated benefit (return). without considering the data center as an end-to-end information processing tool. such as just the IT server investment. upgrade. or consolidate almost always have a predicted return on investment (ROI) that justifies the management decision to approve the project. Elements of a good assessment Assessments are targeted to a multitude of concerns: IT architecture.Realizing return on investment (ROI) in projects Sound business practices drive good investment decisions. electrical power. Investments have typically been justified and made on partial information. a survey of a facility building control system through remote access link). or site conditions to establish known. or insignificant redundancy (no dual power source for dual cord loads). or additional investment to upgrade the facility infrastructure to meet the needs of the equipment.

This may range from high level recommendations that provide global guidance for strategy making by management. qualified. Recommendations An analysis leads to identification of gaps. • The ability of the facility infrastructure to support the total IT critical loading of the data center and deliver the availability required to support the business functions supported by the IT equipment. they can be held up to the scrutiny of interpretation. As with any human endeavor. if specified in the scope of work. these are key issues that are addressed through assessment products designed to address general or specific issues. and quantified. Through this process. as well as assets and attributes that may be leveraged to close the gaps.Analysis Once the survey establishes the facts. Types of assessments Assessments range in complexity and subject matter. but all strive to answer the same basic questions: What do I have? What can it do? What are the limitations? Where can I direct resources to do the most good? For data center managers. preserves utility capacity for IT processing and contributes to efforts to meet environmental “green” standards and goals. It may include. and cost to implement with attendant ROI calculations. gaps are discovered. The expertise to do this is often found “in-house” (the staff and management of the data center) or can be outsourced to a qualified consultant. they fit into four specific categories of data center concerns: • The ability of the data center to support IT equipment used to directly support IT processing equipment. In general. or changes in the IT processing platform. to detailed gap remediation on a rack by rack deployment for IT service personnel. refreshes of existing equipment. Validity of the analysis is only assured if it is based on facts and an objective study by a qualified and experienced professional. and the action plans to close the gaps constitute the recommendation phase of a good assessment. but in either case the implications of the facts as discovered in the survey must be understood and articulated in a useful manner. a matrix of actions that range from easiest to most difficult to implement. How extensive the recommendations are is dictated by the scope of work of the assessment. either as new equipment. • The energy patterns and utilization of the data center which impacts operational costs. 6 . this is where variances are encountered since a useful analysis relies on the expertise and experience of the person or persons looking at the facts and drawing conclusions. • The nature and quality of the maintenance and operations protocols followed in employing the data center equipment in a manner that minimizes the contribution of human error to downtime (the largest single source of downtime) and maximizes the life span and reliability of the equipment.

and lists the following assessments offered as standard service products: • Energy assessments — Quick thermal assessment — Comprehensive thermal assessment — Energy efficiency analysis — Quick assessment — Intermediate assessment — Custom assessment — Environmental assessments\recovery assessments — Quick security assessment — Custom security assessment — Document Capture and Security Assessment — System healthcheck — Serviceguard audit — System resilience healthcheck — SAP assessment — SAN assessment — VMware capacity planner assessment — Performance Analysis for HP-UNIX • Data center transformation assessments — Application consolidation assessment — Consolidation and virtualization assessment • Data Center Consolidation Assessment • Project/portfolio management assessment services • Blade tools assessment and blade environment assessment • Basic capacity survey • Infrastructure condition and capacity analysis • Operations and maintenance risk assessment • Relocation assessment As with any assessment. or can customize a data center assessment that cover one or more of the types above. the scope of services defines the value to the IT manager.Most data center equipment manufacturers (IT and Facility Infrastructure). The individuals most apt to bring validity and value to an internal assessment are most often the most experienced technical managers who also tend to • Infrastructure optimization assessments 7 . HP is a good example of what is available in the industry. and ultimately. and developing recommendations can be an expensive process. because it involves high value human activity. design firms and consultants offer a menu of assessments. • ITSM assessments • IT security and risk assessments The cost of assessments Gathering facts. whether done internally or through consultants. Examples of typical scopes of three facility assessments applications are included in Appendix A for reference. there are soft costs that must be accounted for when using internal staff. While most managers focus on the hard dollar costs since it directly influences budgets. cost of the service. the ability to provide the information needed. analyzing them. equipment suppliers.

while seemingly obtuse. the time of persons charged with executing their responsibilities while they work on the assessments. • Investments in improving the availability and the capacity can be directed to those areas that will yield the greatest return. the decision is made to avoid the potential internal disruption and go with a consultant having the required expertise. whether through internal or consulting resources. The chances of investing in unsupportable equipment. are real and a decision to conduct an assessment either internally or through a consultant should take them into account. The capacity to support IT systems and operations is understood. that will operate in a degraded mode are reduced or eliminated through addressing gaps in a methodical manner.000 for complex assessments with very detailed costing and implementation recommendations. facilities. Frequently. are the benefits. Consultants fees for conducting assessments reflect the hours of expertise needed to obtain and analyze the information. 8 . is known. and the opportunity cost of their contributions while not being in their regular roles.000 for basic reports to well over $100. Diversion from daily duties bears three costs: the direct cost of accounting for their time. Utility capacities. and the facilitation costs of running any business (that is. Vulnerabilities (single points of failure) are understood leading to the development of risk mitigation planning or the design of projects to reduce the threat of failure. Operating from a factual base with clear analysis reduces guesswork and speculation and allows for a “best practice” solution for that particular data center supporting the assigned processing loads. margins for system expansion are defined.have heavy and important workloads. and accounting. finance. or both) are known. existing load levels. depending on the expertise of the assigned professionals. It frequently includes travel hours. Projects can be designed to address better availability and increased capacity based on real information. • The capabilities of the data center and targeted systems (either IT. administrative support costs. IT. True ROI can be defined because all the gaps and variables have been identified through a careful analysis. The availability of the data center is defined and gaps between the availability as required by the business strategy and the availability inherent in the data center design are quantified. and to produce the report with recommendations. management. and so on). which leads to cost effective recommendations. tangible and intangible: • The “as-is” state of the data center. when these costs are weighed against the cost of obtaining an assessment through an external source. The benefit of assessments Weighed against the cost of performing an assessment. along with any gaps that must be addressed to support existing or planned equipment. or systems. or the data center subsystems. Cost typically range from $150 to $300 per hour. These costs. which translate into typical assessment costs ranging from $10.

analyzing the gaps between “what is” and “what should be. Appendix A Types of facility infrastructure assessments—examples of scopes of services and deliverables A basic capacity survey • Identifies the business strategy driving the data center • Identifies the availability of a data center using standard benchmarks like the Uptime Institute Tier designation system • Identifies gaps between the availability needed by the business and the availability of the data center design Conclusion Sound decision making in data center management is the key to realizing the success of a business strategy. an assessment is a good investment both in hard dollar value and in the intangible benefits as well. moving from a reactive to a proactive management process.” and developing action plans to close those gaps by directing resources efficiently. and the value of the IT equipment they support (3X–5X the data center cost). Assessments are good investments.M et er (o rf oo t) Ch ill er s A er at or Sy ste m To w er s Fe ed er Sy ste m RA HS /C RA C UP S ty G ts/ Sq . Against the risk of investing in the wrong place. Reducing operational stress.Figure 1: Data center capacity system 120% 100% 80% 60% 40% 20% 0% 1 W at Po w er Given the cost of data centers ($750–$3000 per square foot). Assessments are a powerful management tool in H VA C W at ts/ (F Sq T) . directing focus to problems that have high potential impact on business success all are intangible benefits that ultimately lead to tangible results. Decisions made objectively—based on valid facts and thorough analysis—yield strong results by directing resources where they can achieve the greatest positive impact for the minimum expenditure or effort. In this manner. obtaining those facts. ili en Ut C M et er 9 . frequently in the tens of millions of dollars. the potential cost of misplaced investment is enormous. A well designed and executed data center assessment is the foundation for accruing these benefits. the goal of attaining the maximum level of availability is achieved with a thorough knowledge of the capabilities of the data center to adapt to change when driven by a relentless business environment. or at the wrong magnitude.

Security. and so on) • Identifies physical constraints to expansion of the data center • Recommends actions to close gaps identified in the analysis process Thermal quick assessments • Surveys raised floor spaces to provide a rapid evaluation of the cooling capacity of the area • Identifies airflow problems in rack areas designated for new equipment installations • Provides supply and return air information to optimize heat control • Notes humidification issues that may be an impediment to optimum IT equipment performance 10 . or identifies gaps in capacities that will have to be closed through upgrades to the facility infrastructure system An infrastructure condition and capacity survey • Includes the elements of the Basic Capacity Survey—availability and capacity issues. Tier 2 is compared to Tier 2.50 2. utility and power infrastructure capacities.00 1. Generators. Electrical Distribution.50 • Lists the facility infrastructure systems and their design capacities • Quantifies the capacity of the utility • Quantifies the level at which that utility power is being used • Identifies the margin left for supporting more IT equipment.Figure 2: Facility infrastructure condition summary B es t I n Cl as s Gener al Condi t i ons Sec ur i t y Fi r e Sy s t em M oni t or i ng and Cont r ol s Heat Rej ec t i on Rac k A r ea St andby P ower Sy s t em E l ec t r i c al Di s t r i but i on UP S B at t er i es UP S Sy s t em 0. operations and emergency procedures as applied to key infrastructure systems (UPS. Rack Spaces. Building Monitoring and Control System.50 1. Cooling Systems. Tier 3 to Tier 3. and so on) • Compares the findings to “best in class” benchmarks for the given Tier level of the data center (that is. level of utilization and margins (or lack thereof) to support increased IT equipment infrastructure components • Identifies Single Points of Failure (SPOF) as discovered in the survey process • Identifies high-level energy saving opportunities as discovered in the survey process • Examines the level of sophistication and effectiveness of the maintenance.00 3.50 3.00 0.00 2.

cooling equipment and the air flow patterns affecting how useful the cooling system is in meeting the needs of IT equipment and systems • Provides a “base case” study that is useful in developing “what if…” scenarios for expansion. based on empirical information. or adding more IT equipment • Recommends changes and modifications to the system. and dedicated air conditioning equipment located in the spaces • Provides an airflow and heat transfer model using Computational Fluid Dynamics software utilizing the data gathered. or to do it more efficiently 11 . which will aid in optimizing the capacity of the raised floor area to support more IT equipment.Figure 3: Facility infrastructure condition summary Thermal comprehensive assessments • Provides the basic high-level information in the Thermal quick assessments • Provides extensive metering of the raised floor air flow system. under-floor distribution configuration. consolidation. This is a visual representation of heat sources.

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