Modernization in a data center is absolutely vital. Obsolete and aged equipment can be a liability to any organisation. Data centers must be kept current so as to reduce the risk of falling behind technologically and being prone to cyber attacks. However, yesterday’s infrastructure was not built to cope with today’s IT demands. With modernization of your data center, you will empower your business with the agility to adapt, innovate and maintain your business’s competitiveness and robustness. Are you looking to upgrade your data center but have no idea where to begin? Here’s the guide designed just for you!
What Is Data Center Modernization?
Data center modernization is important in ensuring that your organisation’s digital needs are met. It involves re-evaluating the current state of your on-premise data center through several vital considerations and upgrading the outdated components so that they remain robust enough to cope with the latest digital demands, trends and even threats. The IT departments are usually under a lot of pressure to improve since the world is becoming more digitally driven. They have to scale your data center infrastructure and optimise the software applications so that the needs of the end-users are met without fail.
In the sections below, we will discuss the benefits and importance of Data center Modernization and Maintenance, suggest actionable steps to kickstart the process, as well as diving deeper into
Why Is Data Center Modernization and Maintenance Important?
1. Reduced Management
A modern data center will help to reduce maintenance and hands-on administration load. It eventually gives more room for innovation. Let’s take technological companies such as Grab and Shopee as examples. Imagine if a big portion of the staff were always running its hardware, trying to fix the hardware problems and faults, would they have time to focus on innovation and tech development, customer experience etc. basically their main operations; what they had intended to set out to do instead? And would they have had the opportunity to achieve the results that they enjoy today? An aspect of data modernization may involve the implementation of a DCIM (Data center Inventory Management) system. It’s a management system that automatically tracks the health status and lifetime of the various individual components of your data center, hence enabling the optimization of the Data center. This is a key enabler in effectively reducing Data center management and maintenance workload.
2. Autonomy Of Scaling
Another aspect of modernization is to imbue the data center with the autonomy to scale according to market demands. Ideally, every business should be able to scale up or down dynamically based on changes in the market trends. It is almost impossible not to experience fluctuations in your business, therefore having the autonomy to scale dynamically means that you will not have the case of under-utilised hardware and infrastructure when it’s the low season as demand isn’t there. This means money saved, and money which can now be allocated into other aspects of the business!
In a world where cyber threats and malwares become more and more sophisticated, cyber security is no longer a luxury but a necessity. Modernization of your data center ensures that your IT software and hardware are kept up to date and remains well equipped to protect themselves against malicious attacks using the latest technology. This is crucial in ensuring your business survivability. In fact, do you know that Microsoft invests over 1 billion dollars a year on cyber security, thus making their products, such as Office 365 and Azure some of the more secure solutions which are trusted and employed by thousands of organisations all over the world. Data center modernization can also include the adoption of cloud solutions to enhance security, because it serves as a backup and redundancy for data that may be lost due to damaged equipment or cyber attacks. In such cases, cloud solutions serve as a safety net that cushions the impact of data loss, thus enabling business continuity.
Considerations For Data Center Modernization
Housing and maintaining an on-premise data center can be a difficult task. However, modernising your data center Is essential so you don’t run the risk of falling behind technologically and losing your competitiveness. Mentioned below are some key considerations which are proposed for the modernization process. Implementing these steps will definitely be a worthwhile investment that will pay off in the long run!
1. Consider Refreshing And Enhancing Data Center IT Assets
On average, server performance erodes by 14 % every year. This erosion means that performance also continues to decline over the years. Low performance eventually leads to higher downtime for your servers and frustration for the end-users. The result is high repair costs for your hardwares. Modern servers will improve performance, and continuous upgrading of the servers will ensure efficiency. Don’t forget that it will also reduce frustration for your end-users, which will help to maintain workplace morale and that may directly or indirectly affect your business profits too!
Servers consume the most amount of energy in a data center. Upgrading the servers can also significantly improve the energy efficiency of your organisation. For example, an old server using a dual-core processor would expend 150W, but an upgraded server using a six-core processor would expend only about 65W. Upgrading servers allows more computing power yet reduces processor energy use.
Newer servers also increase storage capacity, allowing a virtualized server to provide a higher level of consolidation. The same amount of work can be done with fewer servers. Upgraded servers also contain better software and patching updates which translate to keeping devices secure and compliance with government regulations..
That is why upgrading your servers on a regular schedule will improve your organisation’s performance, consolidation, reliability, and management efficiency and should be one of the first things you do to modernise your data center.
2. Consider Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) Solution
A Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) is essentially a software that enables monitoring, management and even control of the utilisation and energy consumption of all IT-related equipment in the data centers. We are talking about equipment such as servers, storage, network switches. In some cases, the DCIM solution extends the same control over the facility’s infrastructure components, such as the HVAC system, as well! Every data center has equipment that needs replacing from time to time. Being on top of this inventory can help prevent a possible failure for not having the replacements readily available when need be. Some DCIM solutions even have the function of measuring energy and performance level of a particular IT asset, and then sending pre-emptive warnings and/or alarms before a malfunction occurs, hence ensuring continual operationality. Having a bird’s eye view of all your data center inventory allows for more effective and efficient tracking of their health status. Gone are the days of multiple spreadsheets and manual warranty forms!
The DCIM will also serve as an enabler for your Data Center Workflow Process Management, because now, you are able to track everything done to every asset, such as the last upgrade, work performed, person associated etc. And this centralization of such information will allow management of the whole Data Center to be much more efficiently and effectively managed and maintained.
An excellent DCIM solution may also be able to automate many of the routine workflows and operations in a data center. Automation ensures agility, which is highly essential in meeting the demands of access to IT resources. Automation will also enable the IT department to be less loaded with menial and routine tasks, which means they have more capacity for more productive work and innovative projects. The end users are also beneficiaries of this increased agility, which helps to improve work efficiency, not to mention workplace morale as well!
3. Consider Renewable Power Supplies With Redundancy.
Data centers are constantly running, and that is why they usually have the highest power consumption. There is also the possibility that power can go out anytime, and having your servers shut down unexpectedly may have a disastrous impact on your business operations as well! That is why you have to invest in Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) solutions. UPSs are usually implemented in most sophisticated data centers, and usually they are backup generators that kick in upon sensing a drop in voltage inputs. But what about the idea of Renewable energy UPS solutions? Have you considered them? Having an array of solar panels and batteries will keep your data center running without you having to worry about when the power goes out or when the tax on electricity has increased. Renewable energy is a hefty investment but will benefit you in the long run.
In modern data centers, it is also common to have in-rack Power Distribution Units (PDUs) to add intelligent power distribution and temperature and humidity monitoring. UPS and PDUs together can significantly reduce an organisation’s power costs. But essentially, the whole idea to ensure that your data center’s power source is hardened and is thoroughly disaster-tested. A good DCIM solution should also have the ability to conduct simulations of power failure, so that the team can continuously test and prove the robustness of the Data Center.
4. Consider Your Data Center HVAC Efficiency
An efficient Mechanical heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system is a must in a modern data center. If these fail, your data center is bound to overheat within minutes, and equipment worth millions of dollars can be destroyed instantly. To avoid this disastrous outcome, consider renovating your data center in a way such that it supplement the existing cooling systems. These methods include chilled water heat exchangers, evaporative cooling, and free air cooling.
5. Consider Utilising A Rack System
Many old data centers have cable connections that don’t fit in cabinets, because the cabinets are mass produced and maybe not be perfectly customised to house the equipment it is currently holding. It is not a rare sight to see cables hanging out, blocking the airflow. Tell me the truth, does this sound like your data center? Consider using a rack system. Tuck away the wires, ensure good airflow, and this will also help to ensure no dust and humidity buildup due to overcrowded cables, not to mention it’s now much easier to clean. A rack system also allows easy accessibility for every piece of equipment that needs to be tested and monitored frequently or during routine checks.
6. Consider Adoption Of The Hybrid Cloud And Enabling Virtualization
Instead of hosting your data on your on-premise data centers, why not consider the utilisation of cloud computing technology and essentially virtualise your data centers? With virtualized data centers, you can now easily tailor solutions that will suit your business IT demands, such as processor power, memory, storage, and bandwidth, and no longer be restricted with whatever infrastructure you have on your own premises! A virtual data center, especially one that is integrated with both private and public cloud networks, will allow your business to scale up because of the timely provision of bandwidth, memory, and storage. You can also scale down to remove unnecessary expenses when demand reduces.
Virtualisation also helps reduce operating costs such as hardware acquisition, training of employees, building and maintaining your facility, and overhead expenses. The IT components are hosted and operated by the cloud service provider with a virtualized data center. Therefore, it is easier to predict your operational costs and customise them to fit your budget and business needs.
Virtualized data centers have allowed most companies to work remotely due to the current world circumstances. Covid-19 has certainly given advocates of virtualized data centers the perfect scenario to showcase their merits. By having a virtualized data center, your employees can access the company’s files when need be and work on them remotely while the files remain protected. The IT department will still have a centralised way of controlling the data and visibility. It, in turn, eliminates downtime and helps avoid your business closing down due to unprecedented demands and threats.
Onboarding employees is even easier with a virtualized data center since all you need to do is install a virtual desktop on a personal endpoint device. It is even easier if your employees have their own devices, meaning you do not incur the costs of purchasing additional desktops and workstations. A virtualized data center allows you to increase or reduce employees according to market changes and demands.
How To Maintain Your Modernised Data Center
Let’s talk a little bit about housekeeping. Modernising your Data Center with the most advanced systems and softwares in the world will be all in vain without proper maintenance. All the hard work and investment put into it will all go to waste if you don’t upkeep them. Having a proper maintenance strategy for your modernised data center is key to running it for a long time. Maintenance also helps reduce costs from unforeseen equipment replacement, among others. Below are various ways to maintain your data center to ensure it is constantly running.
1. Monitor Operations, Measure Key Performance Metrics, And SOPs
Data center maintenance is more than just an investment. Both customers and staff depend on it. It is a necessity.It will help to prevent any unplanned outages, as well as reduce repairs and costs associated with IT downtime. Monitoring the IT operations, which includes hardware, cooling systems, humidity checks, etc. will enable early detection and failure prevention. As the saying goes, prevention is always better than cure!
2. Regular Preventive Maintenance Of Critical Systems & Components
Test critical systems and components regularly to ensure they operate within desired specifications. Doing this can help prevent future system failure. For example, testing a UPS can help avoid a power outage if the power grid also goes out. Other critical components that need regular testing include the cooling systems back up generators, PDUs, etc. It is recommended that Preventive Maintenance of Critical Systems and Components be done at least semi-annually.
3. Upkeep Cleanliness and Hygiene
Who says that data centers are non-living creatures and their cleanliness and hygiene doesn’t matter? These facilities must be cleaned periodically to maintain the health of the equipment, as well as the health of the personnel accessing the facility. It will be crucial to prevent any dust accumulation, for which if left unchecked, may interfere with the equipment performance. For instance, it may reduce the effectiveness of the equipment’s cooling system, or worse still, the facility’s HVAC system, and may result in overheating and permanently damaging the equipment.
4. Implementation of Standards of Procedures (SOPs)
Standards of Procedures (SOPs) such as reporting and monitoring can help identify trends and changes in the infrastructure that may direct you to a possible issue requiring repair or replacement. Part of data center maintenance is repairing and replacing equipment, however minor. These repairs can even include tightening nuts and bolts, replacing bearings and motors, etc.
Yesterday’s data center infrastructure was not built for today’s digital demands. The cost of modernization seems exorbitant at first, and may sometimes be considered a luxury rather than a necessity, but considering the costs of neglecting your business’ technological edge, it is indeed a small price to pay. You have to understand that modernization of your data center is not a matter of “if”, neither is it a matter of “when”, but a matter of “how often”! Furthermore, modernising your data center empowers your business to remain robust and competitive; definitely a worthwhile investment as well! Become the key enabler for your business and be the catalyst that leads the modernization of your data center. If you would like to seek professional expertise to assist and guide you on this journey, consult our leading experts from Vallous today! We will provide you with a FREE, non-obligatory consultation and proposal of a personalised solution based on your business needs and your existing infrastructure (if any). So what are you waiting for? Click on the button below to book your FREE consultation with our experts NOW!