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Gartner: Careful Spending Will Continue Characterizing Data Center Ops in 2010

Data center managers have a lot of room for improvement in their operations, including reducing energy costs and making more efficient use of space, according to Gartner. The consulting firm said that energy costs are the fastest-rising cost element in the data center portfolio. "And yet data center managers are still not paying sufficient attention to the process of measuring, monitoring and modeling energy use in data centers," said Rakesh Kumar, research vice president at Gartner. "They need to realize that removing a single x86 server from a data center will result in savings of more than $400 a year in energy costs alone."

Gartner advised managers to take pragmatic steps to reduce data center expenses. The first step is to gain control over what those costs consist of. "There is no single, standardized method to account for data center costs," Gartner wrote in a recent report, "Q&A: Critical Issues Facing Data Center Managers." The company recommended that a data center manager develop a chart of accounts for the operation.

Once the manager has visibility into the true expenses related to operations, they can follow several courses for cutting those costs, according to Gartner.

  • Rationalize the hardware. This involves taking out those systems that are underused or old or where the workload can be run on more efficient hardware. Gartner said programs focused on rationalization and consolidation can reduce the number of servers by 5 percent to 20 percent.
  • Consolidate data center sites. Consolidating multiple sites into a smaller number of larger sites will often result in financial savings. Related to site consolidation, Gartner recommended evaluating the location of the data center in terms of labor rates, cost of energy and facilities, and security risks.
  • Monitor, model, and measure energy usage. Gartner said techniques for cutting energy usage include raising the temperature of the data center to around 75 degrees Fahrenheit to reduce the level of cooling required; using outside air as an alternative to air conditioning where possible; using hot aisle/cold aisle configurations, blanking, and economizers; and using server-based energy management software tools to run workloads in the most energy-efficient way.
  • Evaluate staffing expense. People costs still form the single largest cost element for most data centers, sometimes as much as 40 percent of overall costs, Gartner said.
  • Delay new purchases. Putting off the purchase of new assets has become standard operating procedure, Gartner pointed out, especially as a server's useful life often exceeds its amortized life.

Gartner also said innovation can play in role in infrastructure management. In a recent presentation at a data center conference put on by the company, Research Vice President David Cappuccio encouraged managers to capitalize on three current trends: to focus on virtualization and green IT for immediate cost and flexibility benefits; to evaluate storage virtualization, deduplication, and thin provisioning; and to evaluate Web-based social software to transform user/staff interactions.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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