This question is not asked enough by data center designers, owners or managers as they build-out new whitespace. Cabinets are the foundation of the data center’s physical infrastructure, used throughout the life cycle of the facility. IT equipment that runs the applications are contained within them, the cabling that connects the equipment to the users and the LAN/SANs are terminated and managed in them, power is distributed within them, and cooling is channeled through them. They are also the most visible infrastructure element, and how they look and fit together is often an indicator of how a data center is run and managed.
Why then are they frequently taken for granted, simply considered “big metal boxes”? Why isn’t there more emphasis on cabinets being considered an asset that helps reduce operational costs?
We frequently work with data center managers who need help optimizing data center white space. They are fully aware that data centers are among the costliest facilities to build and operate. Excluding power and cooling, Gartner estimates that the space a single server cabinet occupies costs $4,900 per year. This figure is based on the annualized cost of the building structure itself, racks, building maintenance, 24/7 security and staff and property taxes, etc.
Dynamic, virtualized work-loads, the need to provision new applications quickly, and lack of insights into available power and cooling leads to over provisioning of power and cooling, which results in higher operating costs. On the contrary, space is often under provisioned and results in average cabinet space utilization between 50% and 65%, an obvious visual indicator that improvements are needed. However, historically, deploying additional capacity has been complicated, expensive and time consuming.
Factor in the time and effort, associated with justifying capital for a data center expansion and optimizing the existing space becomes an attractive alternative. Increasing cabinet density can be like venturing into unknown space. Here are some considerations as you embark on your mission–optimizing data center white space: