Dec 2, 2010

Staying Ahead of the Data Center “Power Curve”


When buying a house, the first question that many people ask is: “What is the square footage?” Clearly, the size of a building is a top criterion among homebuyers, and the same line of thinking is often used by IT executives when evaluating data centers for a colocation project. They think that having enough open space in a rack leaves them room for future expansion – they can just add more servers later on while remaining in the same facility.

However, this focus on space often means overlooking an even more important requirement – power capacity, or more specifically, power density. In many data centers, the amount of power available in a rack is not enough to allow that rack to be fully loaded with servers. The industry standard for power in a rack is usually 2 Kilowatts (kW) or 4kW. With the high power consumption of today’s servers, the power capacity of a rack can quickly be used up by only a few servers – leaving the rest of the rack (sometimes up to 60%) empty but unusable.

And, as servers become even more powerful in the future, they will likely also become more power hungry, which means that they will max out a rack’s power capacity even sooner than they do now.

In a recent Forbes blog, “Power Management Questions for Every CIO,” author Dan Woods poses 10 important questions that CIOs should answer when managing power usage in a data center. Question #4 on that list is “What is the maximum amount of power that you can provide to the data center?” The bottom line is, enough power-hungry servers can not only max out racks but an entire data center too.

The growth of high-power servers is causing many colocation providers to reconsider rack power densities. At Internap, we recently expanded our Boston data center, and one of the key features of this expansion is not just the additional square footage, but expanded power density of up to 10kW per rack. Why is this density so much greater than today’s industry average of 4kW? 10kW will allow customers to use more servers in a rack, both today and in the future. And it should keep them well ahead of the “power curve” for years to come.

Also, because many colocation providers charge by space, not by power, companies can save money by taking up less space using a high-power density rack.

To truly future-proof colocation projects, enterprises need to start asking about the available power density in the racks of data center, not just the space available. The answer to this question could save them from a big power problem in the future.

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