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Tips To Help You Prepare For The Future Of Your Data Center
 
Network and data center managers are very familiar with the hazards associated with either over spending or under spending when it comes to capacity planning. Not investing enough—or not getting necessary resources—will mean that you will not have the capacity in place to adequately handle your enterprise’s IT needs in the future. Over investing will likely lead to excess capacity, unused equipment, and other wasted expenditures that will not bode well with whoever is looking over your shoulder at how the budget is used. 

We gathered tips to help you go about planning for your data center and network capacity needs. Most involve determining what your requirements will be in the future by first analyzing what is in place now. The better your analysis, the tighter your plan will be to address future needs and constraints. 
 
(Really) Analyze Your Existing Capacity
 
Most admins can benefit from a more in-depth understanding of their data centers and networks’ operation to better assess future capacity needs. An efficient way to do that is with high-powered software that offers tools with 3D graphics for space, power and cooling capacity, and redundancy planning, says Michael Petrino, vice president for PTS Data Center Solutions (www.ptsdcs.com). Such software can help you to dig deeper into your data center’s operations patterns to map out what capacity will be needed in the future. 

“Having the entire data center mapped can allow for troubleshooting and future planning to happen in a more logical, structured way,” Petrino says. “With an accurate room model, we are able to take information regarding new systems and run multiple room and rack cooling capacity and redundancy planning scenarios as to where in the room the heat generated can be most effectively dissipated without impacting other systems.” 
 
Get The Cool Factor Right 
 
Varying component temperatures, different HVAC cooling outputs, and power-source provisioning are just some of the variables that must be taken into account for data center cooling needs. Failing to process all of the complex variables is one of the most common mistakes in the capacity planning process, Petrino says. 

The remedy for the cooling-capacity planning process is to ramp up your energy analysis to address future cooling needs, Petrino says. “Energy efficiency analysis will allow the data center manager to identify underperforming assets, which most often are CRAC units,” Petrino says. “[It is then possible] to begin the process of making improvements to increase the return temperature, which is most often accomplished by reducing air mixing.”
 
Don’t Overestimate Bandwidth Needs 
 
Go to any networking conference, and a common theme is how to build and maintain very fast LANs, although most small to medium-sized enterprises have little need for such high-powered infrastructure. While some enterprises do rely on LANs with fast data transfer rates for their business model, high-speed connections are generally not needed because most user workstations in SMEs really can’t take advantage of ultra-fast connections, says Roger Hockaday, director of marketing for EMEA at Aruba Networks (www.arubanetworks.com). 

After the implementation of 100Mbps data-stream pipes to desktops have dominated the industry during the past few years, it turns out that desktop users only really need a fraction of the data-rate speeds available to them, Hockaday says. The gap between fast network data-rate speeds and what is required should factor in when planning for network bandwidth capacity, he notes. 

“The majority of desktop users only burn 1 to 5Mbps [of bandwidth]. While instantaneous traffic flows can be higher, in practice the user does not benefit from the ability to burst at 50Mbps or more because the time taken to synchronize an MS Exchange file or open a PowerPoint file (which are the office applications the majority of people use) is usually limited by the PC, not the network’s ability to deliver the file,” Hockaday says. “Even if the PC is fast, fractions of a second difference in opening a file are not noticeable—latency is invariably the limiting factor, especially on remote connections.” 
 
Use Daily Power-Distribution Schedules 
 
With electrical power-capacity management, greater efficiency can be realized by analyzing energy-usage patterns in 24-hour periods and then planning accordingly. It is possible, for example, to take daily power-consumption trends into account to alter electrical loads so some servers are powered down when they are not needed, says Charlie Mayne, president of IT Watchdogs (512/257-1462; www.itwatchdogs.com). 

Servers’ power usages can be determined by gathering data about electrical-current usage from individual outlets in power-distribution strips, Mayne says. Aggregating the data and analyzing patterns will then let you better plan for electrical-power distribution throughout the day for different servers. “By determining which circuits are using the most power [during the day], you can better balance their loads,” Mayne says. 
 
by Bruce Gain