Design and Maintain Your Server Room or Data Center

Hot and Cold Isles

The first thing you need to do is get rid of all the unused cables beneath the suspended computer room floor. This is one of the oldest and greatest problems for computer rooms. The unused cables have not just been collecting dust under your floor – they’ve also been creating an effective air-block that doesn’t let the air flow down there. Plus they also make for very messy server rooms, because usually you’ve also got a significant amount of power and other communications cabling down there too. You might even need a computer room raised floor smoke detector installation.

The next thing you need to do is properly arrange your equipment into hot and cold isles. This will help significantly. The containment of hot isles will also help in areas where blade servers or other “very hot” equipment is in use. Also ensure that you have data center cooling rack enclosures and blanking panels in place in all empty cabinets so that you’re not wasting the energy to cool nothing. By properly managing the air flow in your server room, you will save a significant amount of energy, which turns into money.

You may also want to seriously consider virtualization, which will give you another boost in savings. If you take a look at the power consumption of a chip, from 0-50% utilization, power use is almost linear. But when you go up to 50-75%, there is small incremental power consumption. Over the past couple of years virtualization has gotten quite advanced and mature, which makes it a very viable solution to server consolidation.

And finally, properly provisioning your power can have a huge effect. If you add up the tags on the back of the power supplies to do this, you are probably working in overkill mode. The numbers on the tags are always the worst case and vary depending on the manufacturer. Chances are, you’re really only using about 1/3-1/2 that amount.

Power is expensive! That’s why some companies are really going the extra mile (pun intended) and moving their entire data centers to areas where power is the cheapest. That must tell us something about power costs!

Go Green!With today’s economic crisis, it’s becoming more important than ever for computer rooms and data centers to run more efficiently this year. But, as I’m sure you know, this isn’t a new issue. Raising energy efficiency in the last few years has been a major point of focus in both the public and private sectors, and this year is no exception. If you can successfully raise your energy efficiency, you will help to not only produce much greater energy savings and enhance your company’s data reliability, but you’ll also be cutting down on carbon emissions in the environment by minimizing the load on the electric grid.

To obtain these goals, equipment suppliers are inventing more energy-efficient equipment and technology every year, and computer rooms are decreasing their energy consumption in their buildings. The US Department of Energy (DOE) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have also focused on this issue by creating a national energy efficiency information program for data centers.

With the economic crisis in full effect right now, the financial impact of high energy use in server rooms is becoming an ever increasingly important issue for most companies. Because of today’s energy situation, you should read an article from Wall Street & Technology, titled “5 Tips to Cut Data Center Energy Use.” In the article, there are 11 server room ideas for practices recommended for cooling that can help dramatically improve computer room energy efficiency. Here are the top five from the article:

  1. Plug Holes in the Suspended Computer Room Floor
  2. Install Blanking Panels
  3. Coordinate CRAC Units
  4. Improve Underfloor Airflow
  5. Implement Hot Aisles and Cold Aisles

A dedicated computer room creates a huge benefit, even for a small server room with little equipment. Small servers can cause terrible noise and can make even a large room’s temperature to greatly rise. There are also serious security concerns that must be considered if your servers share the room with other people or if they’re easily accessible to people just walking by in the hallway.

A large server setup, on the other hand, will quickly surpass tolerable and/or regulatory noise levels (which can be varied in each state or country). The heat reducing demands will also be significantly higher. Standard air conditioning cannot handle such high demands. Plus there will be waste heat from computer room ac. The only option is to allow for a dedicated computer or server room with specialized air conditioning that will cater to your specified ideal server room temperature. If you’re unsure about what would work best for you, check into server room air conditioning companies. A dedicated area will also make limiting personnel access much easier to handle. It’s probably a good idea to implement electronic badge or card access, and maintain a log of who has entered or exited the room.

In addition to the server itself, generally a dedicated computer room will also contain disks, back-up devices, cables, and, most likely, spare disks, peripheral cards, blades, fans, and other vital equipment. You will probably be able to provide server administration remotely, but a local console in the server room is also crucial, which will allow personnel to perform functions like maintenance and administration locally.

Environmental Issues to Consider during Computer Room Design

In addition to storing the equipment in your computer room, you will also need enough room to move and rearrange it as needed. Part of this includes changes in air conditioning and electrical power. You’re also going to need enough room to store backup replacement devices such as peripheral cards, fans, disks, and backup tapes.

If you’re not careful when estimating your current and future demands, you may be forced to move your servers to a new room or location, which will cause a major disruption in your company’s services. You’ll also end up with huge direct and indirect costs. Your direct costs might include obtaining, building, and provisioning a new computer room or even an entirely new building. Indirect costs may and probably will arise, for example, when a lack of storage causes an inability to work efficiently and properly and respond effectively to competitors.

Do not store any of your backups in the server room. If there is a computer room fire, it could, and probably will, damage or destroy both the hardware and the backups. Ideally your backups should be stored offsite at a secure location. It may cost, but it’s worth it.

Ensure that your power supply is large enough to meet today’s demands as well as the demands of the future. Don’t be frugal when it comes to your server room. Also make sure you install enough lighting and electrical outlets.

If you will do all of the above correctly the first time, ensuring a correct computer room layout,  it will make futre maintenance and enhancements that much simpler, not to mention cheaper.

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