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Data Centers And SMB Server Rooms: Useful Tips

Aug 13, 2013

What’s Good for Data Centers Can Translate to SMB Server Rooms

Good ideas translate well to Small and MidSized Business Server and Telecom Rooms.

One of my favorite magazines, Wired, had a recent piece titled 8 Steps to Building a Modern Data Center. In the piece, author Greg Smith provides “eight fundamental steps to creating a more efficient, manageable, and scalable datacenter that evolves with your organization’s needs.” The steps noted are:

  • Be Modular
  • Converge when Possible
  • Let Software Drive
  • Embrace Commodity Hardware
  • Empower End Users
  • Break Down Silos
  • Go Hybrid
Focus on Service Continuity

Certainly Data Centers need to be more efficient, more manageable and scalable in order to be competitive in what is fast becoming a commodity business. (More on that in a future piece.) Indeed, energy efficiency can be a strategic differentiator. Scalability can help data centers manage demand in a cost-effective way.  The same thing can be said for de-scalability, to coin a phrase. The online electronic hardware (when the capacity is no longer needed) drives cost upward with no return on assets, and is something that efficient businesses try to avoid. While these tips can help large data centers, some can be applied to Small and MidSized Business (SMB) server and telecom rooms.

Server-Racks

SMB Server Room (Link to Source)

Unlike data centers, many SMB server rooms and telecom rooms are managed by a small staff or service company. Equipment or configuration in the server rooms often goes unchanged for months (if not years), depending on the needs of the SMB. And as with larger companies, many SMBs are outsourcing some elements, or in some cases their entire IT infrastructure to data center providers, a.k.a cloud providers.  Even so, many of these businesses avoid keeping the essential pieces in house for ease of access, perceived security, or other reasons.

Among Wired’s fundamental steps that may help SMBs with their limited resources and budgets are the following.

  • Converge When Possible – Take advantage of appliances that combine functions such as computing and storage.  This can help with scalability when the time comes to expand.

  • Embrace Commodity Hardware – What’s good for giants like Google can be good for SMBs too.  Low-cost commodity hardware running distributed software can allow IT professionals to scale fast with minimum investment. And upgrading commodity electronics can be done with smaller budgets, meaning those 6-year old servers that cause problems in the middle of the night can finally be replaced.

  • Go Hybrid & Focus on Service Continuity – These two steps may be looked at together for SMBs.  Using cloud service providers when it makes sense, which may be more often than one thinks, may help provide the redundancy and reliability needed to insure service continuity. Quality cloud service providers can often meet a very high reliability goal, insuring business continuity when local outages occur at the SMB site. Defining the need and developing a full specification that can be quantified and compared to goals both parties agree to is one key to success.

Google-Racks

Google’s high density server racks often contain commodity hardware (Link to Source)

Data centers often have one thing SMBs do not in their server rooms: emergency power sources that serve as a backup when electrical power from the grid is interrupted or unavailable. UPS's, back-up diesel generators, flywheels, and other methods can insure operation during power outages, at least for some period of time. And even if server rooms are equipped with UPS devices that maintain operation of electronics for a period of time, AC units will not be operating, so server room temperatures can increase rapidly.

Environmental monitoring equipment is recommended for these and other times. Fault-tolerant design or operation can help overcome communication challenges when the network is not available.  To learn more about fault-tolerant environmental monitors, check Temperature@lert’s Sensor Cloud service for USB, WiFi and Cellular Edition products.

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