Last modified: June 15, 2015
Modern civilization has reached a point where interconnectedness and reliance upon cloud computing technologies extend into the heart of every business on the globe. Most importantly, small, growing businesses need to expand their business capabilities into many different markets concurrently, and data centers provide the means of achieving this goal. By understanding how three common misconceptions of data center management result in inefficiency, data center managers can begin implementing supply chain management and logistics solutions to improve performance and increase return on investment.
Data centers appear to the population as huge, secretly-guarded reserves of information with an emphasis on maintaining strict, defined operations. The public perception of data centers remains paragons of efficiency and technology; however, data center operations often falter in supply chain management. As part of the digital age, people have grown accustomed to the use of new technologies to improve efficiency, and ordinary homes have advanced technologies for lessening inefficiencies in the use of resources, such as power, water, and even wastewater. All those living in the home understand how these systems relate to saving money, which is a simplified form of getting a return on investment from a business.
Data centers contain hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of server racks and infinitely more numbers of smaller servers. However, more processing power does not equal a greater understanding of how daily operations lead to inefficiency. This simply represents more information going to waste as it does not truly impact how a data center functions. Data center managers can use supply chain logistics to improve performance by analyzing how misconceptions in data center management have led to inefficiencies.
When servers become overheated, information can be lost, corrupted, or even stolen due to the transfer of information to other servers that is interrupted upon sudden shut-down. As a result, many data centers have sought out ways to implement efficient means of providing cooling. The most common solution to this problem is termed, “containment.”
Containment makes sense on a basic level. If containment prevents hot air from the servers from reincorporating with cool air being pulled into the servers via cooling fans, the overall temperature of the data center atmosphere will stay at a maximum operating efficiency. However, the use of containment systems could very well use an equivalent amount of energy, if not more, than the amount of energy required to provide cooling for data centers not using containment systems. Furthermore, data centers that do not rely on renewable forms of energy for power are becoming victims of inefficiency in other parts of the global system.
Consider the inefficiency of burning fossil fuels to produce power. A company must extract the fuels, refine them, and then provide the means of transporting them to companies that generate electricity. By reducing the middle-man in this process, a data center could improve its operating efficiency with the use of third-party logistics (3PL) supply chain management provider.
Google has taken steps to reassess how current beliefs about data center cooling needs have been studied and implemented as well. Google researchers identified, contrary to popular belief, servers can operate efficiently at temperatures as high as 80 degrees. However, this means technicians, engineers, and employees working in the data center would be in a warmer environment, especially in areas of hot climates. To curb this problem, Google changed the employee dress code. Google employees can now wear shorts, which alleviate the heat issues for people, and the data center energy consumption levels dropped. In addition, some major companies, including Google, have explored the possibility of opening data centers in cooler climates. By opening a data center in cold climate, the concept of AC could be virtually eliminated. Fans could bring cool air in from outdoors, and this circulation will effectively keep the data center at maximum operating efficiency.
When a data center operates, many different teams are charged with overseeing the daily operations of the facility, which primarily focus on the technical aspect of data. However, these teams do not necessarily have the expertise necessary to identify and come up with solutions to problems in inefficiency, especially as it relates to problems existing with the physical confines of the structure.
As data evolves within data center servers, areas could easily become hotspots of activity. Hotspots include both more data transmission and additional heat output for the specific, affected area. Someone working in the physical confines might notice this change and lower the AC output for the area. However, the information is never relayed back to the IT departments. This lack of communication results in continued data management that had previously resulted in the hotspot. A 3PL provider will identify how different occurrences within the data center correlate to one another. This single analysis would then result in a change in data processing for key peaks of data usage in specific servers. Therefore, the data transmissions could be disbursed throughout the data center prior to these occurrences, which reduces the formation of hotspots. Ultimately, this reduces the data center’s energy consumption as the AC does not need to work additionally to cool the interior atmosphere.
Data center management continues to operate in a constant state-of-change. Yet, data center managers may not know where problems lie or how to fix them. Furthermore, some problems exist due to failures within the communication and integration of monitoring systems and employees in the data center. While these three misconceptions have the support of a positive return on investment, a greater focus on supply chain management will boost revenue and have an even greater return on investment. One question remains: “who will take the first step and approach a 3PL supply chain management provider about improving data center management?”
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