Data center facilities pro

Mar 16 2009   2:41PM GMT

Multi-tiered data centers

Mark Fontecchio Mark Fontecchio Profile: Mark Fontecchio

Building a data center with one level of redundancy across the facility might seem foolish to some. Do your Web servers need to have the same uptime as your mainframe?

And expensive, too. Peter Gross, the vice president of critical facilities at Hewlett-Packard who was the CEO of EYP Mission Critical Facilities before HP bought them, said that a Tier 4 data center costs about $3,500 per square foot, while a Tier 1 costs $1,000 per square foot.

“With a 50,000-square-foot data center, the cost of a Tier 4 would be about $180 million,” he said. “But if you could do half at Tier 4 and half at Tier 2, it might cost $140 million. So you could save $40 million right there.”

That is the idea behind a new offering from HP and EYP – the ability to build multi-tiered data centers. Gross said the concept consists of building modular data center blocks, each with their own level of redundancy. You can connect them in different backup power configurations — for example N+1 or 2N — and thus can provision your data center in a more detailed way according to what suits your business.

Though HP is calling it a multi-tier specification, the redundancy definitions won’t have anything to do with The Uptime Institute’s tier classification system, which is the de facto standard on data center reliability. Gross said they’re just using the word “tiers” because that’s what data centers are used to hearing. Although using that word might confuse their potential customers, I think.

Gross also said that the redundancy levels will not be restricted to the four-level system from Uptime. Instead, a customer will tell HP EYP, for example, that it wants a 2% failure probability in the next five years for this portion of the data center, and a 7% failure probability in the next five years for that portion of the facility. Then HP EYP will go off and design a data center to that specification, and (presumably) draw up some kind of contract that solidifies it.

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