Datacenter Density, Blade Servers, and Heat/Power Issues?

Hello, I've just inherited a datacenter that has been occupying 400 square feet and running 20+ racks of equipment. However, this technology team has just completed a move to HP Blade servers and now the datacenter is down to 7 racks of equipment. The HP blades are functioning flawlessly and as anticipated -- faster, cleaner, neater, easier to maintain. However, there is one major drawback we're running into. With the new 1U servers or blade servers out there the density of the datacenter goes up exponentially -- and our datacenter vendor is telling us that our watts per square foot are too high. We're occupying 200 square feet of space and 7 racks, yet our vendor is now telling us that we can't run higher than 125 watts per square foot and we need 500 square feet of space, just to balance out the datacenter. The problem is complicated by history: 1. My understanding is that even the best datacenters out there were built in the year 2000 timeframes. Thus, they're built to the 100 to 125 watts per sqare foot rating. 2. The equipment out there was also purchased in the year 2000 timeframe, thus it's now up for 5 year renewal and people are buying faster and denser equipment. 3. The datacenter demand right now is also creeping up higher and higher -- more people seem to have datacenter needs -- there are a high number of RFP's and RFI's out there. 4. Lastly, energy costs are sky rocketing, so combine this with #3 and the datacenter vendors are unwilling to "give the space away" like they may have been in 2000. Is anyone else running into this problem with newer more dense equipment? How are you handling it? Are you moving to your own datacenter with adequate cooling equipment? Are there datacenters out there that can handle the high density equipment e.g. blades or 1U servers of now a days? Much appreciate the input.

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It’s a tricky one, but becoming increasingly common. When you moved to blades, did you consolidate and reduce the number of machines?

This next one probably isn’t what you want to hear, but many people who implement blades or pizza boxes tend to fit out the racks at lower density than possible, to allow air to circulate better. Is there a reason why you couldn’t spread 7 racks worth of kit over double the square footage (going back to your original 400) and half the density?

What is the average CPU utilization of your servers?
If they are under-utilized, you are consuming space, power and heat for components that aren’t really justifying their cost. If you didn’t consolidate already (or, if you did but utilization is still low) you could try that to reduce the number of physical machines further. VMware ESX would be well-suited to this. You could also try using workload management software to provide resource management capability to enable you to consolidate even further and host more apps on each physical or virtual machine. This could lead to a dramatic reduction in density, and if the boxes were under-used anyway, a corresponding reduction in heat/power etc. Something like Smartpeak software could work quite well.

Let me know how it goes, this is a fairly topical problem for the industry right now so I’m interested.

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  • Suntigen
    This is a very apropos discussion. I'm consulting for a medium sized company in Chicago, they have recently been informed that they are also consuming to much power. I must admit, I was skeptical about this issue until I had direct discussions with the DC Management (I assumed it was a renewal negotiating tactic). My client is starting to lean towards Virtualization/Consolidation as an option to mitigate this problem. Blades were considered, but with a product like VMWare we can reduce our rack footprint to 2 or 3 racks (down from 8), and similarly reduce our power needs (a majority of the 50+ servers would be eligible for Virtualization and Consolidation onto 2 or 3 large(ish) HPDL585 AMD Servers. If your team _just_ completed the move to blades, this probably isn't an option for you until the next capital cycle... so you may have to bight the bullet and lease the additional space/power load. The high level cost-benifit-analysis makes the move to VMWare a no-brainer (for us anyway). Sincerely: Matthew S. Krawitz
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  • Wallerich
    There is at least one perception that needs to be corrected. Very very few data centers, if any, built in 2000 were built to 100-150w/ft2. There are data centers being built today that aren't building to those specs, unless they are specifically for high density environments. That said, there are data centers out there today that support 500+W/ft2, but very few. I would say that today, most data center designs are in the 100-150W/ft2 range in order to support blades. As a data center designer, I have concerns that building to today's needs will be insufficient in a fairly short time, likely 2-3 years. Many data centers built in the past 2 years have already run out of capacity. This issue is both electrical supply to support high density systems, and more importantly, the need for more sophisticated airflow and hot air removal systems. This is an area that is not well understood, yet is critical to supporting high heat loads efficiently and cost effectively. And COLO's are well known for selling capacity they can't actually support. COLO contracts are specific about what can be supported, but generally identify a limit for the entire space, and not specific densities. So, you may have enough electrical supply for the 200' room, but with high density systems, the COLO is not able to supply enough cold air where it's needed, and probably can't evacuate the hot air that is generated. Hence, their suggestion that you get a bigger room, even though you don't need more floor space. Make sense?
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