Gartner says more than 50 percent of data centers to incorporate high-density zones by year-end 2015
Date: Thu, 05/12/2011 - 20:17 Source: Gartner press department
The fastest-growing segment of the server market is the high-density blade sector, meaning that high-density zones will need to be incorporated into most data centers during the next five years, according to Gartner, Inc. Through 2015, 50 percent of data centers will have a high-density zone, up from fewer than 10 percent in 2010
Traditional data centers built as recently as five years ago were designed to have a uniform energy distribution of around 2 kilowatts (kW) to 4kW per rack. With the increasing use of high-density blade systems, this design envelope is no longer sufficient. Gartner analysts said that high-density zones will provide the best method to balance the power and cooling requirements of different IT equipment (servers, storage and networking boxes) in the same physical data center, leading to energy cost optimization.
Gartner defines a high-density zone as one where the energy needed is more than 10kW per rack for a given set of rows. A standard rack of industry-standard servers needs 30 square feet to be accommodated without supplemental cooling, and a rack that is 60 percent filled could have a power draw as high as 12kW. Any standard rack of blade servers that is more than 50 percent full will need to be in a high-density zone.
"High-density zones are by far the best way to manage the differences in the life cycle changes of data centers' building structures, electromechanical equipment and IT equipment," said Rakesh Kumar, research vice president at Gartner. "However, many users remain unsure of the benefits of high-density zones — especially in gaining flexibility in capacity planning — as well as the potential pitfalls.
Mr. Kumar said that some of the main issues facing users of high-density zones in the designing of their zones include planning for lifestyle changes in IT hardware, managing space and managing cooling. Traditional forced-air cooling methods become increasingly ineffective at densities above 15kW per rack. A high-density zone will, therefore, typically require supplementary cooling, such as a chilled-water system, hot/cold aisle containment or in-row/in-rack cooling.
"One of the most-important strategic considerations in designing new data centers or refurbishing existing ones is balancing the rates of change between the building's system and the IT systems," said Mr. Kumar. "For example, over a 15-year period, a building will remain essentially the same, but the electromechanical systems will typically need one round of modifications, while the IT systems will typically be refreshed two to three times."
Mr. Kumar said that balancing these changes is complex. The core of the problem is that new generations of IT equipment will become increasingly complex (blade systems and the evolving fabric architectures are examples), resulting in ever-increasing energy requirements. Therefore, one of the best ways to "future proof" against these problems of change is to use high-density zones. Gartner advises organizations to develop a high-density zone large enough to accommodate predicted IT capacity growth, which should typically be 20 to 25 percent of the raised floor space.
The space required for the high-density zone will depend on many variables. For example, the proportion of high-density IT equipment to standard equipment will provide a rough guide. However, users must also look at their future technical architectures, as the high-density zone must be big enough to accommodate growth
Gartner advises using high-density zones as a mechanism to manage space within the data center. Where space costs are at a premium, users should ensure that the design and size of the zone are big enough to accommodate growth for at least five years and, where possible, about 10 years of capacity. Using scalable power distribution units (PDUs) and moveable walls (for containment), should provide a scalable environment without over-engineering for growth.