Opinion

3 keys to data center consolidation

data center

The Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative was created in 2010 to slow and ultimately reverse the incredible growth in the number of data centers. FDCCI aimed to do that by issuing guidelines for reducing the cost of hardware and software, streamlining operations and increasing efficiency.

Although the deadline for meeting FDCCI’s goals was last November, consolidation remains incredibly important. Unfortunately, it is often easier said than done.

The job of IT professionals in the U.S. government is atypical, and the technology they must deal with is unique. Charged with advancing and securing some of the most important missions in the world, they must still reduce costs — it is extremely expensive to operate and maintain federal data centers — and support new connected technologies while at the same time meet mandates and comply with regulations.

So how can agencies simplify and optimize mission-critical data centers in the face of consolidation? There are a number of ways.

1. Plan for and measure savings, enhanced reliability and funding. Through the implementation of an assessment strategy, managers can identify which data centers can be consolidated for maximum efficiency gains. Once those centers are identified, officials should consider infrastructure improvements such as integrated, high-density, high-efficiency IT room systems. That technological upgrade benefits all parts of the operation by increasing availability and agility while keeping costs low.

Data center managers should also consider using energy savings performance contracts, which provide federal agencies with an alternative (usually private) financing option for energy-saving projects that require no upfront capital costs. ESPCs are funded at the outset by a third party and then paid for through the resulting savings, which are guaranteed by the participating partner.

ESPCs help federal agencies meet energy efficiency, renewable energy, water conservation and emission reduction goals, and the streamlined financing can facilitate flexible and practical contracting processes.

2. Adapt to changing cooling needs. Not surprisingly, consolidation has a profound impact on facility cooling. High-density containment pods — thermal containment systems that are the most energy-efficient way to ramp up power density — can address the small-space and high-heat constraints of a consolidated data center. Because the pod is self-contained, it requires little planning, design or engineering. And that type of solution can allow a legacy data center to increase its density and efficiency during the consolidation project.

3. Accommodate difficult locations. A potentially overlooked complication for federal data centers is their location. Facilities for the U.S. military and the intelligence community must often be deployed in remote locations with challenging environmental conditions, including war zones.

Prefabricated data centers can go anywhere the agency goes. Modules built to International Organization for Standardization specifications are pre-engineered, pre-assembled, integrated and pretested in a factory environment and available in both high-cube and standard-height formats. For military use, they can withstand the most demanding conditions and environments and fit inside aircraft cargo bays for transportation and quick deployment anywhere in the world.

The designs can also include anti-vibration pads, anti-ballistic armoring, Defense Department- and NATO-approved locks, and TEMPEST protection.

Overall, prefabricated power and cooling modules can be 60 percent faster to deploy compared to traditional facilities — a time savings that can benefit the federal community in multiple ways.

The road to full consolidation can be long and arduous for federal data center managers. Time constraints and increasingly tight budgets have made it difficult for IT professionals to meet ever-stringent efficiency demands, but by considering the three factors discussed above, they can be well on their way to success.

About the Author

Steve Cronin is senior director of government and public-sector IT business at Schneider Electric.

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