Spring Cleaning Your Data Centre Could Save You A Fortune

Space at a premium in your data centre? Steve Pinder, GlassHouse Technologies (UK) principle consultant suggests you do some spring cleaning.

Steve comments: New data centres are being built at a rapid pace as existing ones reach capacity. At the same time newer, faster and smaller servers, storage arrays, and switches are continually being purchased to compliment or replace legacy equipment that has passed its useful lifetime.

IT staff worldwide love getting their hands on new equipment to give it a road test and see how it will make their lives that little bit easier. Unfortunately, they usually forget about the other factors that could make their lives MUCH easier and save their organisation bundles of money at the same time, but often these are inherent in the old equipment that they have just replaced.

Often when new equipment is purchased it is destined to replace existing kit. Once applications and data have been migrated to the new hardware, the perception is that the original kit no longer serves any useful purpose. Unfortunately, due to numerous reasons, this equipment may never actually be decommissioned.

Reasons can range from arrays being left 15% full with no time to clear out the remainder, to incorrect labelling on servers, leaving technicians unsure as to which physical server matches the migrated host name.

Clearing the last few hosts off a storage array or clearing up rack labelling inaccuracies is never high on anybody’s priority list and the task can often be incredibly dull. In most cases it ends up at the bottom of the department’s ‘to do’ list and stays there indefinitely.

After a while administrators forget that a particular item is earmarked for decommission altogether. They may be unable to remember whether it was blade number 12 or 13 that was to be removed and can’t log on to them due to inadequate permissions (these jobs are invariably left to junior staff members).

This leads to concern such as ‘will I turn the wrong piece of hardware off ?’ ‘Will I be able to remember exactly which piece of kit is which ?’, ‘what happens to the blade when it is taken out of the chassis or the array when it is switched off ?’ ‘How is it disposed?’ and ‘Who on earth do I ask about data shredding?’- No one has ever been fired for turning something on but most people know somebody that has been fired or heavily disciplined for accidentally turning something important off.

Such scenarios are all too familiar in large corporations and are exacerbated by problems surrounding high staff turnover. Employees that are leaving are rarely concerned about who will own their applications or hardware once they have gone.

If nobody actually needs these ‘orphan’ items they are left there to quietly carry on consuming power, cooling and rack space ad infinitum.

From my experience in data centres there is an average of around 5-10% of hardware that is of no value to the organisation but is still switched on. For companies with multiple locations this can lead to vast amounts of wasted rack space alongside maintenance payments that are no longer necessary.

To remedy this issue you need robust and clearly defined SOP’s (Standard Operating Procedures) in place for the decommissioning of hardware. Most organisations have well defined procedures for commissioning items but few have anything as formal in place for equipment removal.

Typically, this waste is only discovered during a data migration or building move. Hundreds of man hours can be wasted attempting to find owners of unutilised equipment that could have been removed years ago.

Time and time again companies are astounded at the space that could have been saved had they decommissioned equipment effectively. Few believe that this has occurred and even fewer are willing to pay for a full environmental audit in order to find out.

Such ‘policies of denial’ could end up costing millions if an additional data hall is built unnecessarily, or power feeds to an existing facility need to be upgraded.

In almost all cases an environmental audit and the creation of SOP’s for equipment decommission will pay for themselves many times over in real terms, while also reducing an organisations power consumption and carbon footprint.