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Finding a Solution
Depending on your current or anticipated future power and cooling challenges, there are several approaches that can be used to maximize what you currently have for short term or possibly long term relief. Additional approaches can be applied or combined with short term solutions to enable longer term relief from power, cooling and energy environmental issues. Some examples of short term and longer term approaches include:
- Establishing new facilities or obtaining additional power and cooling capacity
- Optimizing existing IT resources and facilities to be more energy efficient
- Upgrading or replacing existing technologies to be more energy effective
- Reducing your data footprint, or moving the problem elsewhere
Building a new facility in an area with more available power and transmission capacity can be easier said and done. While you can readily find co-located space or shell facilities in many different regions, will these meet your specific demands? New data centers are not the exclusive domain of ultra large organizations like Google. Many IT organizations are establishing new, secondary or tertiary data centers either in the same general area or further away in a different region to address power and cooling as well as business continuity (BC) or disaster recovery (DR) requirements. Beyond cost and complexity, the other issue involved with adding on to, or accessing more power, or stabling a new data center, is the time delay between when you decide and get approvals and when the facility can be occupied.
Optimizing Existing Resources
Have a power and cooling assessment performed of your data center facilities to identify hot spots to maximize cooling capabilities to enable growth, or enable enough power and cooling capacity to support migration to more energy efficient and performance-effective technologies. Many vendors are jumping into the power and cooling facilities assessment services game. In addition to a general power and cooling assessment, a more exhaustive analysis of your facility's energy consumption could result in a reconfiguration of cooling, air-flow and equipment location or rebalancing of power distribution and circuits which may be easier said than done.
Consolidation can be an approach to deal with distributed power and facilities concerns, or on a local basis, to reduce footprints of IT equipment and drive up utilization. However, a couple of caveats on consolidation include avoiding negatively affecting performance or availability of applications by focusing on just resource space capacity utilization and neglecting performance and availability. Another caveat is with the race to consolidate remote office and branch office technologies back to a main, central or peer data center site, you may inadvertently aggregate or throw out of balance your existing performance, capacity, availability and energy capabilities.
Reducing Your Data Footprint
Data footprint reduction can be accomplished a number of ways: using archiving (e-mail, database and unstructured), data compression or compaction using host-based software, device or appliance based, as well as emerging single instancing also known as commonality factoring, data differencing or de-duplication techniques.
If your need is for more storage capacity, you could employ data compaction or compression techniques for online as well as off-line backup and archive data with appliances like those from StoreWiz.
Instead of adding more capacity, you could use a compression appliance to reduce your data footprint for online as well as secondary near-line or off-line storage without affecting performance. For backup, you could use VTLs that support compression, compaction, single-instancing and de-duplication. To increase I/O performance, you could use a caching I/O acceleration appliance to make your existing NAS storage or NAS cluster system run faster to support consolidation without incurring a performance bottleneck.
Thin provisioning is a technique that is becoming more widely available in different variations, incarnations and capabilities from many vendors. Thin provisioning may require upgrading or replacing existing technologies or cause disruptions to re-allocate non-thin provisioned storage, so look for solutions that are as transparent as possible. Also, keep in mind that with thin provisioning, if you have a stable predictable environment, you can leverage the overbooking capabilities of thin provisioning, similarly to how airlines overbook seats on airplanes assuming that some reservations will not show up. However, when they do, there is a lack of capacity.
With thin provisioning of storage, it is important to have good storage management tools and information to help plan and predict growth to avoid overbooking. The effect of unplanned overbooking with thin provisioning, if not enabled with good predictive management tools, can be as disruptive as denied boarding at the airport when traveling to your summer vacation on an over-booked flight.
You could also play the spin the disk down game with one of the increasing number of storage systems with power management; however, you also need to avoid performance bottlenecks when trying to restore large amounts of data while waiting for disks to spin back up. Likewise, you want to be aware of any potential performance bottlenecks if you need to do large scale restores from de-duped data while it is being re-hydrated or expanded back to normal size for restoration.
The trick with the need to eliminate many individual smaller sites is to avoid over-consolidation that results in facilities or an infrastructure that becomes strained by power and cooling demand. Server and storage vendors, including HP and IBM, have some interesting stories that they are using to back up and support their power and cooling assessment services based on their own consolidation efforts.