Data Center Ecosystem

May 27 2011   5:46PM GMT

Save $275,000 (it will only cost you >$2,000,000 to do it!)

Carrie Higbie Carrie Higbie Profile: Carrie Higbie

Vendor loyalty is great if the vendor is really providing you with a benefit.  Vendor loyalty that is blind and misplaced is costly and stupid.  Yes I typed it- STUPID!  When a vendor is a business partner and takes care of your needs by saving you REAL money, (not imaginary money) and they actually do have your best interests at heart then that is a true business partner.

Blindly being an “X” shop and not even considering other alternatives is a horrible mistake.  This is particularly true today with top of rack switching being pushed on consumers.  There are certain instances when this makes sense, but in most data centers it leads to massive over purchase of ports, increased power, increased cooling, and increased maintenance costs year over year.

Since the data center is a true ecosystem let’s look at a real world example.  One end user bought into the several layers of switching in a data center and top of rack switching for gigabit transmissions.  Gigabit is fully supported by a 100m channel.  That means that any channel within that 100m could utilize a switch port if the cabling system (highways) were in place.  Server could be placed where it makes the most sense for power and cooling.  The modules selected for the transmission were far more expensive, require more power at the server NIC, and since they are modules only carry a 90 day warranty as opposed to the 20 year warranty that would accompany a structured cabling system.

The standards are clear as to structured cabling systems.  Basically they say, use them!  Data centers that are in a mess today are in such a state in large part due to point to point connections.  So back to the case study.

The top of rack switching was supposed to save $275,000 on a structured cabling system.  (they forgot that the cords and modules suggested replace a part of that, so it is really a bogus number to start with).  But since those cables come out of the networking budget, it is hidden in another pocket.  When we counted up the top of rack ports that couldn’t be used over the 336 cabinets in the data center, they would have purchased the equivalent of 504 switches that were not needed.  These switches draw power even in idle mode.  The maintenance costs are a reoccurring expense as well.   In all, to save $275,000, the cost for the additional unneeded and unusable ports were over $2,000,000.

Now you don’t have to be smarter than a 5th grader to figure out that there is some funny figuring going on here.  Jethro Bodine of the Beverly Hillbillies could even do those “goes intas.”  It’s high time to really start treating the data center as an ecosystem.  Stop listening to self serving vendors that are into selling more ports than you need or can use.

So when I discussed this with the end user, the switch vendor said, “No problem, you can always patch cabinet to cabinet.”  This same vendor currently has a bunch of messy cabling pictures to try to sell top of rack.  How do they think the cables got to be a mess to begin with?  Lots of point to point cables and long patch cords.

My advice, grow some common sense.  If your switches work in the top of racks, they will also work in a zone that opens those switches up to a greater number of servers and cabinets.  That is where the savings are.  A cable costs NOTHING once it is installed.

Anyone that has to deal with compliance is not going to like long patch cords all over the place.  Or they will quit before it has to be audited leaving the mess for someone else.  In short, think things through before you believe a funny number.  Make sure to evaluate a technology thoroughly.  One piece of marketing literature does NOT work in every data center.  It doesn’t matter who the author.  You have to evaluate it for yourself and your environment!

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