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Green Data Center Rx – Go Modular

steve-sams-mug2Demands for IT capacity are unrelenting and often unpredictable, making it difficult for CIOs in mid-market businesses to keep up with the pace of change.

Growth from mergers, acquisitions and geographic expansion have resulted in server sprawl across many server rooms or aging data center infrastructures which are not able to meet future needs. How can anyone design a server room to last 10 to 20 years when the technology it supports changes every two or three years?

Even in this economic downturn, mid-size businesses are still feeling the heat – literally – in their server rooms. Recent surveys by InfoTech Research Group indicate that smaller companies face greater challenges in running out of power, space and cooling with 43 percent of them planning to build a new server room in the next 12-24 months.

Enterprise Strategy Group Research confirmed that green considerations, especially tactical data center energy efficiency projects, are driving companies to deploy new technologies and new initiatives to help them save costs and reduce environmental impact. How can you support the increased IT demand with shrinking IT budgets? One solution is to go modular.

Modular design is about using smaller increments of standardized components to match business requirements to IT requirements and add server room capacity as needed. They reduce the need to predict requirements over a long time to cover all contingencies. By building in smaller increments — or modules — you pay to build only what you need when you need it. In addition, you can scale as needed to deliver more capacity to meet new demands as required. It is no wonder that InformationWeek Analytics survey indicated 58 percent of mid-size clients favor modular designs.

With 43 percent of mid-market clients planning to build a new server room in the next 12-24 months, scalable modular data centers can provide the flexibility needed to address the challenges of cost, efficiency and environmental considerations. And at 500 to 2,500 square feet (approximately 50 to 250 square meters), they’re a good fit for this market segment.

More efficient use of power and cooling

The scalable modular units provide an efficient design that uses in-row cooling that allows racks to be fully loaded — versus the average 60-percent rack loading today — to maximize the efficiency without running into power and cooling issues.

When more IT and cooling capacity are needed, the datacenter can grow horizontally – more racks and in-row cooling capacity can be added without disrupting existing operations and allowing the addition of the latest IT technologies.

Reduce costs, be green

Scalable modular solutions can be designed and installed in nearly any working environment in much less time than a traditional raised-floor data center. By using standardized modules, they provide inherent scalability and flexibility to help cut up-front capital costs by as much as 20 percent. And the improved efficiency of scalable modular data centers can result in energy cost savings of up to 30 percent.

They also can help support broader corporate green and sustainability strategies. The CIO of top European retailer kika/Leiner used the energy efficiency of its scalable modular data center to promote the corporate brand image of its green furniture line and its overall corporate sustainability program.

Responsive to change

In the past decade the equipment inside server rooms has changed dramatically. According to IDC, the average server room — from 1,000 to 5,000 square feet — houses over 90 percent x86 servers. A recent survey of mid-size clients indicates that 54 percent are targeting an average rack demand of 7 to 11 kilowatts per rack in server rooms designed to support 1 to 3 kilowatts per rack.

As power density of x86 servers continue to grow by 20 times this decade a modular design can help adapt, deploy and use new generations of technology faster by designing in the flexibility before it’s needed it so it is ready when it’s needed it.

Modular data centers-with their flexibility and scalability-provide the core opportunity for CIOs to adapt to change, adopt new technologies, cost-effectively align capacity to business needs and begin to factor in energy efficiency as a key IT operating metric.

These innovative approaches to data center design and build enable CIOs to play a pivotal role in supporting the CEO’s business objectives by helping to respond faster to change, improving capital and operational costs, aligning business and IT growth as required, and building a “green” image.

With over 60,000 companies looking to make a decision to build a new server room within the next two years, going modular can provide an effective prescription for cost-effective, green IT growth.

Steven Sams is vice president of site and facilities services in IBM Global Technology Services. Steve leads a global services team which help clients identify requirements, current capabilities, and best options for data centers.

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