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Is Data Center Power Efficiency Corporate "Greenwashing"?

Posted on February 20, 2013 by Gento

There are many ways companies can become more environmentally friendly such as using technology to cut down on travel, minimizing product packaging or using environment friendly packaging materials, and changing manufacturing processes to mention only a few. So is the emphasis on data center efficiency an easy way to have some green program that can be used in PR efforts? I say no.

Data centers consume an enormous amount of power, the generation of which produces greenhouse gases and contributes to global warming. Even if corporate data center efficiency is a relatively easy and well defined problem, easy and well defined compared to reworking a manufacturing process for example, the benefits are still very real. With some large data centers consuming megawatts of power even small efficiency gains have a material impact. But we are not talking about small improvements.

With the advent of the Green Grid’s Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE), many companies are trying to achieve ever lower PUE numbers. Sometimes the figures seem like corporate bragging in the information technology trade press. But corporate boasting or not I’ll gladly take the improvements and the pressure to do better such announcements place on everyone in IT.

A few years ago, the common PUE was 2.0, i.e. half the power going to IT equipment and half going to IT support infrastructure such as computer room air conditioning (CRAC units). Now, major companies such as eBay and Google are publishing PUE figures around 1.2. That is a stunning improvement.

Not every data center will be able to achieve very low PUEs. There are practical considerations, especially for smaller data centers. For example, it may not be possible to rework a small data center to take advantage of airside economizers or cost effective to replace an existing UPS with a more efficient one. But with so much IT industry attention being paid to improving PUE and other measures to reduce power consumption in the data center, data center managers and their facilities counterparts can be proud of their accomplishments.

There may be greenwashing going on in other parts of the company but, the data center is leading many corporate sustainability efforts and making a real difference.


Discounted Passes - TELADATA Technology Convergence Conference

Posted on February 1, 2013 by Gento

The TCC is a one-day educational conference where IT, Facilities, and Data Center professionals and executives come together to learn from each other in a unique collaborative setting. Discounted passes are available.

How Shands HealthCare Saved 50% in Asset Tracking Efficiency
2:35 – 3:15 pm in Track A/General Session Room
Abstract:  This presentation will cover the challenges Shands HealthCare faced in managing and tracking data center IT assets across multiple data centers. The traditional method of tracking, using Excel spreadsheets and Visio floor plans and vertical layouts, was not flexible enough to support their multiple data center ever changing needs. Read more at http://www.teladatatcc.com/sessions.html#a235pm.

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Minimizing the Hidden Costs of Managing IT Racks
1:00 – 1:30 pm in Track B/Breakout Room B
Abstract: You’ve built out your data center, installed cooling systems, run power feeds and filled your racks with IT equipment. But have you thought about the ongoing costs of managing or upgrading those racks? Read more at http://www.teladatatcc.com/sessions.html#b100pm.

To buy a ticket at the discounted rate of $175 (regular price is $499), go to http://www.teladatatcc.com/register.html and use promo code: RaritanDisc2013.

Where: Santa Clara Convention Center
Date: February 7, 2013


Paragon II release 4.8.3 with SIPRNet - Now Available

Posted on February 1, 2013 by Gento

Paragon II release 4.8.3 with SIPRNET (Secret Internet Protocol Router Network) support provides secure, remote access and control of multiple SIPRNet systems.   With this new release, Raritan’s Paragon II meets the DoD Chief Information Officer, October 14, 2011 memo “DoD SIPRNet Public Key Infrastructure Cryptographic Logon and Public Key Enablement of SIPRNet Applications and Web Servers” which mandates the use of SIPRNet tokens to access classified systems.

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Paragon II offers:

  • Secure, high speed, out-of-band, BIOS-level remote access and control to multiple classified systems
  • Reduced overall rack footprint and reduced cost
  • Non-blocked access for up to 64 simultaneous users controlling more than 10,000 servers
  • Consolidated view of all Paragon connected devices
  • A proven solution that passed all tests for SIPRNet tokens on DoD classified networks.

To read more about Raritan’s support for SIPRNET, please  go to  http://www.raritan.com/resources/application-briefs/.

The upgrade is free for customers.  It is recommended that all customers upgrade to this new release.

Release 4.8.3 firmware and documentation can be accessed at Raritan’s Paragon II support page:  http://www.raritan.com/support/Paragon-II/.


IT Telecommuting - Dream the Impossible Dream !

Posted on January 30, 2013 by Gento

An article in Network World, “Want to telework? Not so fast, IT,” emphasizes that many IT Professionals would like to telecommute, but are unable to for a variety of reasons.  It even mentions a particular company for which “IT workers are expected to live within close enough proximity to the office to be able to get there quickly.”

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While there are a variety of factors that may gate the ability to telecommute (including trust, technology and culture), remote access tools are readily available for IT to effectively telecommute and perform virtually all IT tasks not requiring a wrench or a screwdriver !

 Remote access tools for telecommuting must meet the following requirements:

  • Be available anytime/anywhere
  • Provide complete and comprehensive access
  • Provide out-of-band access
  • Connect to your entire IT infrastructure
  • Connect quickly and easily
  • Provide secure access

Technologies such as KVM-over-IP, secure console servers, intelligent PDU’s, embedded service processors, and in-band access, when integrated within a centralized management system, can meet the above requirements.  Complete and comprehensive access includes BIOS-level access, access to serial devices, virtual media and remote power control.

The Network World quotes a CIO who says:  “If their job is to stack racks or power-cycle servers, then they need to be in the data center.”    While “rack stacking” via telecommuting is beyond the state of the art in data centers, remote power cycling is completely possible via today’s intelligent rack PDU’s such as Raritan’s PX rack PDUs.  Power, energy and environmental management are also supported.

So while there may be many “soft” reasons gating IT telecommuting, remote access solutions are available to securely support today’s IT professionals dreams of working from wherever they are.


DCIM, A Holistic, Shared View of the Data Center

Posted on January 28, 2013 by Gento

DCIM-Data-Center

A data center is the domain of several different work groups in an enterprise.  A facilities group is responsible for such physical elements as the cooling plant and the power plant. The IT infrastructure group is responsible for the networking resources - everything from the structured cabling, to the networks, to the SANs and LANs. Then you have the IT systems group, responsible for the whole system, the servers, the storage systems, etc.  In the days of on-premise data centers, these groups worked in close physical proximity with each other and with their end users.

Over the past several years, more and more enterprise data centers have become stand-alone facilities.  No longer attached to the corporate headquarters building, they have increased the need for lights-out operation on the IT side. A new group of workers, data center ops, now manages day-to-day operations.  They’re in charge of fulfilling requests from the various groups, racking and stacking the servers, connecting them to the power chain and to the network infrastructure.

What I have been seeing in practice is that data center ops groups tend to react to these requests in a totally manual and painfully inefficient way. They may send a technician to figure out the rack spaces available.  They may send a second person to figure out the cabling and networking resources available in that cabinet and they may send a third to figure out what power is available in those cabinets.

Some of our customers have told me that this process can take so long - often several weeks - that by the time they’ve figured out these resources and their upstream dependencies, the rack space is gone.  Lacking the tools to communicate data center resources properly among all requesting groups, the ops end up resorting to manual processes.

Good Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) tools address both pain points here — the repetitive, on-premise checking for data center assets, and the communication gap between departments and domains that lets those resources run out before requests can be filled.

DCIM systems start with a thorough configuration of all the assets in a data center, including their connections, and their upstream and downstream dependencies. We look at not only how much power there is, but how many network switches, ports, and power strips you have and how much power you have available in every rack - how everything is connected. You might like to know, for example, how an infrastructure element such as a circuit breaker or a network switch port may have an impact upstream on the servers that are connected to that breaker. Or you might want to know what applications are running on these servers and what departments or business units are being supported by these applications.  These problems become very difficult to solve, especially on the fly and under the stress of resolving a problem.

Visualization tools within DCIM should give data center operators and managers top views of the data center, from which they can drill down to a rack, to every device and server in the rack, and even see its front and back so they can understand what ports are configured on that device.

The discipline part of the solution — enforceable through DCIM tools — is a consistent application of change management processes, so that data center changes and installations are recorded and the overall picture is kept accurate.

A true DCIM, then, is a holistic system with components to serve many disparate groups, whether they are the technicians, the administrators, the managers or even the VPs that run each of these groups.


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