How to Modernize Your Aging Data Center Infrastructure

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Tech Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for IT pros

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Legacy data center infrastructure could be costing you time and money. Here are a few things to look at to bring your systems up to date.

Article 4 Minutes

The data center is at the heart of today's digital business. But if you haven't upgraded these facilities in a while and you're still using the same systems and technologies that have been in place for years, you'll be at a distinct disadvantage compared with more up-to-date competitors.

The modern data center isn't just about performance and ensuring users and applications are able to get swift access to the information they need. It also needs to be energy efficient, flexible and cost-effective.

Key trends affecting today's data centers

There are a range of reasons why legacy data centers may no longer be equipped to cope with today's needs. The digital landscape is changing more rapidly than ever, with several key trends that demand the highest levels of performance.

For instance, technologies such as mobile and IoT mean more and more devices are generating, sharing and using data. The additional processing requirements this creates means traditional data center architectures may not be able to support the needs of tomorrow's computing power.

Then there are the demands posed by sustainability requirements. Businesses and customers are highly aware of issues such as their carbon footprint, and the financial and social challenges that come with this, so efficiency is a key requirement for any modern facility.

The challenges of outdated data centers

Legacy data centers can struggle to cope with these issues for a variety of reasons. For example, aging equipment becomes less reliable and more prone to downtime, which is a serious problem for any business in today's always-on environment. At the same time, these devices will be much less energy-efficient, which can be hugely expensive in terms of both power and cooling.

For instance, the average data center server only operates at around 12% to 18% of its capacity, yet still draws up to 60% of its maximum power. Even when sitting almost idle, they’re still drawing power 24/7.

With other issues including difficulties scaling up quickly to meet periods of peak demand, poor security and a lack of adequate disaster recovery and backup options, it's clear that there’s no time to waste for businesses that have yet to modernize their data center infrastructure.

5 steps for upgrading your data center operations

To go about this, it's important to have a clear plan in place. While some steps, such as ensuring security patches are up to date, are part of an ongoing process, there are a few key changes that every business should look at to bring their infrastructure up to speed and enjoy the benefits this can bring.

Here are a few areas to bear in mind:

1.  Identify the gaps and prioritize your needs

An essential first step will be to conduct a thorough review of your current situation, looking closely at the performance of your infrastructure and identifying where any gaps lie. Begin by evaluating metrics such as the device's age, maintenance records, load and capacity.

This will allow you to see where any gaps lie and any particular areas of concern. You can then prioritize your efforts, starting with the most mission-critical systems and those where the biggest risks of failures lie.

2.  Improve your power usage

Power concerns are a growing issue for many data center operators. As well as increasing the efficiency of systems by replacing older, more power-hungry servers, you also need to ensure your systems are hardened against outages. Upgrading uninterruptible power supply systems to newer models, for instance, may not only reduce the risks of downtime, but can improve energy efficiency and offer smarter power monitoring/measurement capabilities.

3.  Optimize your layout for efficiency

If you're embarking on a major overhaul, it can be a good opportunity to rethink the layout of your infrastructure, especially if you're replacing older servers with newer, higher capacity alternatives. This can enable you to reduce the number of devices you need to power and cool, and let you rearrange your remaining hardware into more efficient formats. For example, consolidating servers into fewer racks greatly reduces the volume of air that’ll need to be cooled.

4.  Reevaluate your cooling

Focusing on improving your cooling performance is also a good idea, as more than 40% of a typical data center's power needs go towards this area. Replacing traditional systems with alternative methods such as water-cooling, or smarter HVAC solutions can offer major efficiency gains. You may even consider reevaluating your operating temperatures, as modern equipment can work reliably at higher temperatures than in the past, allowing you to reduce the resources you devote to cooling without impacting performance or reliability.

5.  Upgrade your monitoring

Older data centers may have inadequate monitoring equipment that doesn’t give a full picture of their resource use. Upgrading these tools to a more modern system can give administrators much more information about issues such as capacity, power usage and more in order to provide real-time, comprehensive visibility into the health and performance of the data center. This can then be used to schedule predictive maintenance, adjust resource usage or bolster security.

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