• StrataFusion

The Datacenter Divide

The data landscape continues to change as technology evolves, which is bringing new challenges for IT leaders to manage growing data needs. In our increasingly digitized world, there is a fast-growing disconnect between data center providers and compute and storage products.

CIOs, CISOs and other business leaders know not all workloads are suitable for the public clouds. Most have also come to recognize that running your own datacenter is not the best way to deliver compute and storage services to your business colleagues. As a result, we are seeing a boom in the use of datacenter services to house highly converged compute and storage systems.

When we look at Datacenter services, two key metrics stand out that consumers should care about -- cost per kilowatt (kW) per month, representing the impact on the budget, and kilowatt per square foot, representing how much compute and storage capacity fits the space rented. Both of these metrics are primarily influenced by the robustness of the datacenter build, specifically how efficient power (and thus heat) can be cooled.

This is where the divide manifests itself. Most established datacenter providers are really managed as a real estate business like a shopping mall -- getting marquee tenants to drive the future sale of the building. Delivering efficient power, cooling and space services is only a means to an end. As a result, spaces can typically cool about 400W per square foot[1], or about 10kW per rack. Older datacenters support half of that. This has not changed much during the last decade as reliance has been on the equipment and rack vendors to solve local cooling challenges.

On the other hand, compute and storage vendors are creating more and more dense systems that require more power. Think about needing 1,200W per square foot, or even dramatically more when you look at solutions that cram 20kW in a third of a typical rack.

In order to cool that much power, you need water cooling and specialized racks, which is a very intrusive, complex and expensive retrofit from the existing air-cooling systems. While this will not happen overnight, there are a few smaller and newer datacenter providers that have the capability. I predict they will be busy the next five years as the low-density space providers try to catch up to the compute and storage vendors’ power demands.

CIOs have more responsibility than even before, and a solid compute and storage infrastructure is crucial. So be mindful of the divide between what your favorite hardware vendor sells you and what your neighborhood datacenter provider can support.

Edward Wustenhoff

[1]Cooling Watts per square foot is based on the racks in the aisle only, not the entire datacenter