Data & Communications

The emergence of data convergence



It is predicted by 2020 there will be 4.5 billion internet-connected devices in the world. So how is this going to affect the data centre landscape? Joe Young reports.

Over the past five years there has been a major shift in how companies use data centres. Not too long ago data racks used to be setup in a silo-like fashion in offices around Australia. Each server rack or sections of racks were designated to a particular aspect of the businesses storage needs. This often resulted in poor hardware utilisation, rising operational costs and a reduction in productivity and flexibility driving IT managers to seek more efficient solutions.

Another trend across residential, commercial, industrial and manufacturing industries is challenging the centralised data centre model as we know it.

The rise of IoT connected devices and with it, comes a rise in edge computing.  This is where information processing responsibility is taken away from the core of a network, the servers and to the edge of a network being computers, BYODs and other devices.

Consumers are demanding information instantaneously with reliability, lower latency and with low operating costs.

Emerson Network Power managing director Robert Linsdell says there is a need for converged data centre infrastructure that provides scalable, agile and efficient support to networks amid the rise of IoT devices and edge computing architecture.

Micro servers can provide a good option to keep operational costs low and solutions in the space are becoming increasingly converged to be optimised for environments where many IoT devices are interacting within it.

Converged designs not only store data but compute and network it in a self-provisioning pool of shared resources.

These solutions combine thermal management, power protection and security in a row or rack-based enclosure which can be easily scaled. Remote management also enables IT managers to oversee core and edge infrastructure for optimal efficiency.

Such solutions are designed to reduce the manual labour and technical skills needed to operate and set-up the systems. They can be pre-configured so they can be up and running in hours instead of weeks.

These micro servers can be wheeled-in, incorporated into an office fit-out, plugged into a 20 amp circuit without affecting the structural layout of the office environment.

This is a far cry from the planning needed to set up a traditional silo line-up of server racks in a noisy designated computer room with cooling systems.

Over the last five years Robert has seen a “quite dramatic” transition from companies having these dedicated computer rooms to only keeping a few racks on premises placed in the general work area.

“Companies are choosing to store the bulk of their data in collocation sites and on the cloud, leaving only a small amount of data needing to be stored on their premises,” he says.

“You are often left with some residual data that people don’t want to take off site; perhaps for security reasons, or perhaps they don’t want to transfer security camera video over fibre optic cable because it can be very expensive.”

Robert says many companies are using inefficient systems and even though they may have only a few servers, operational costs are still high.

“You can have a small data centre running at 200kVa with 200 kilowatts of cooling and they are only taking a load of 35 kilowatts, so they are very inefficient, but nobody wants to spend the money on the infrastructure because it’s already a sunk cost. They don’t want to downsize but they have these big bills and are missing the real estate that the racks are taking up.”

Robert says a big mistake he sees people making is skimping on the cost in the initial set-up phase of on –site data centres and this can have adverse consequences down the track, not just with operational costs but also in emergency situations.

After working with helping clients to implement good practises so they are ready when faced with a massive power outage, Robert says the right infrastructure needs to be in place from the start.

He says the cost of losing data or having your servers go-down in a black-out or similar circumstances far outweighs the cost of having a good initial server set-up; and he mentioned the experience of Southwest Airlines as a cautionary tale.

Southwest Airlines had a data centre outage which lasted an hour. The initial cost that could have prevented the outage was predicted to be a few hundred thousand dollars and the estimated cost of the outage was around $62 million.

Installers and sellers of these solutions are constantly driven to push the price down and that presents a real challenge for the industry, particularly when offering higher rates than competitors can result in loss of business.

Consumer demand to access information reliably and instantaneously has resulted in increasing pressure to deliver distributed computing where it’s needed. Robert says the market needs to embrace converged infrastructure solutions even though it may come at a larger initial cost.

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