10 Data Center Strategies You Need to Consider, Now

by Kenneth Hess

How is the "other half" managing to lower costs in their data centers? They have a strategy. They might have more than one.

Empowering your new-generation data center requires a strategy. It might even require multiple strategies to stay ahead of the competition. Setting up and managing a data center is no simple task. It takes a village of individuals to design, build, operate and maintain them. How many strategies will it take to make your data center successful? One? Three? All 10? This list provides a measuring stick by which you can assess your own strategies and your progress toward their fruition.

1. Greening

The new data center buzz has a greenish tint to it. Develop a strategy to "green" your data center by using lower-consumption products. Newer disks have a smaller form factor and consume less power. Disks are large consumers of power. Solid state drives (SSDs) require very little power, have no moving parts and are becoming very affordable. If you don't like SSDs, SAS drives have high capacity, a small form factor and high speed (10K to 15K).

2. Consolidation

Consolidation efforts aren't new to data centers, but the current trend is to consolidate systems and functions. Virtualization isn't always a part of this exercise. Consolidation efforts currently under way follow the path of doing more with less by switching to Linux or to Windows Server 2008.

3. Virtualization

Often connected to consolidation efforts, virtualization leverages higher-end hardware to house multiple and disparate workloads onto a single system or a cluster of systems. Seen as an opportunity to lower hardware, support, and power and cooling costs, virtualization is a hot data center strategy.

4. Leveraged Cloud Computing

Corporate executives find that leveraged cloud computing environments, such as those offered by Amazon, save an extraordinary amount of money compared to other data center strategies. Premium cloud services offer 24x7x365 availability, maintenance, support and less hassle for one low price.

5. Private Cloud

Businesses also opt for the newest data center strategy: Private cloud computing. A private cloud already exists in your own data center. Private clouds consolidate other technologies, such as virtualization, clustering, high-availability, commodity hardware, flexible software licensing and an elastic compute infrastructure. An elastic compute infrastructure, known as on-demand computing, expands and contracts computing resources based on utilization of those resources. A private cloud employs the same technologies as public clouds without taking on some of the risks. Private cloud costs are higher, but absolute resource control is often more important than perceived cost savings.

6. Disaster Recovery

A familiar conference room buzz term is "DR Strategy." Disaster recovery (DR) refers to a collection of technologies to make sure you're prepared in the case of a disaster. DR strategies equate to purchasing insurance that protects you from a total service outage. DR strategies generally describe a primary site and its complement of hardware, software and networking, plus a secondary location that "mirrors" the primary site in design but perhaps not depth level. For example, the primary site contains 20 servers, a pair of load balancers and multi-tiered applications. The "DR" site holds 10 servers, a pair of load balancers and copies of those multi-tiered applications. The DR site receives multiple updates in a 24-hour period to keep it relatively current with the primary site.

7. Leveraged Content Delivery

When you need to deliver a huge amount of data to your remote employees and customers, what do you do? Do you purchase extra bandwidth from your service or communications provider, or do you call Akamai to deliver it? You call Akamai. Akamai is the de facto standard in leveraged content delivery. Just ask some of its customers: MTV Networks, MySpace, Fox Interactive, Clear Channel Communications and EMC.

8. Storage-Area Networks

A storage area network (SAN), sometimes referred to as leveraged storage, is a relatively new data center strategy that's worth its weight in gold but not quite as costly. SANs are expandable, scalable, inexpensive storage that also works with virtualization solutions. SANs are much faster than traditional network attached storage (NAS) due to dedicated Fibre Channel connectivity.

9. Remote Backup

For home and small business users, remote backup is a reality with services such as Mozy, Dropbox and Carbonite. Corporate users can use Intronis, MozyPro or i365 (aka Seagate Online Backup). Remote backup is a cloud services offering that ensures safe and secure data backup and restore. Online backup is inexpensive, reliable and agile. Its agility lies in its ability to back data up at one site and easily restore it to a secondary site. Related to DR, online backup and restore is a rapid response technology and reliable data center strategy.

10. Automation

Data centers and automation aren't strangers to each other and, in the future, they'll connect in more intimate ways to provide more cost-effective solutions to those who implement them. Automation is a key strategy to manage the new generation of data centers. Every major vendor is in the race to provide automated services to its customers. Commoditization through automation is a phrase you'll soon hear spoken in the same paragraphs as virtualization and cloud services. The fully automated data center might seem like a futuristic dream, but the reality is closer than you think.

Ken Hess is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of open source topics including Linux, databases, and virtualization. He is also the coauthor of Practical Virtualization Solutions, which is scheduled for publication in October 2009. You may reach him through his web site at http://www.kenhess.com.

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This article was originally published on Friday Jun 18th 2010
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