Dell Says You Don't Need a New Data Center


Dell has a plan to extend the life of your data center, and it's got a revamped facility of its own in Round Rock, TX -- along with $29 million in savings -- as proof of concept.

Many data centers now in use were built during the dotcom era, and seem to be nearing the end of their useful lives, says Albert Esser, vice president of Dell's Data Center Infrastructure Group. The buildings are getting crowded, and power and cooling costs have companies "pushed to the wall -- it's an epidemic scenario."

Dell's solution includes a combination of regular upgrades to hardware, virtualization to reduce server count, and careful positioning of assets in order to even out heat distribution and reduce cooling costs. The company announces today a service offering built around this model, Dell Data Center Optimization Services, which Esser says has been implemented for some customers already.

Dell recently scrapped plans for a new data center of its own, having extended the life of its existing Round Rock facilities. "We were running into same wall as our customers. We were ready to go with blueprints for a new data center, but we found we had more capacity than we thought," says Esser. "We can extend the lives our two main data centers almost indefinitely, and we have reduced costs on top that by $29 million."

The savings in operating costs, he says, are net of hardware replacement expenditures. It's a three-year cost avoidance number that includes purchasing and provisioning infrastructure, but does not include efficiencies gained via faster provisioning, etc.

"This will work for a lot of buildings out there," says Esser. "If you have a functional data center that serves your needs today, I'd recommend a second look to see if you really need a new one. You don't need to run it meat-locker cold, you can find servers that aren't really doing anything...an IT person may not be sure if they can shut down an incidence, and if I have a choice between being famous for shutting down Dell.com, or saving a few dollars, I'll choose not to be famous. As part of our service offering, we go in and identify the machines you don't need, and turn them off."

The model considers data-center productivity in terms of both power utilization effectiveness and IT effectiveness, that is, the amount of power required to get work done and the efficient use of hardware. "Driven by those metrics, with three year refresh rate on hardware, you can quarter the data center off and put new equipment in every year, use a decent amount of virtualization, and you've made a big difference in your power and cooling needs. Keep the schedule going, with a reasonable growth rate, and you'll drop down in power and CO2 emissions."

The tough economy is a big driver toward efficiency, says Esser. "CFOs are pulling out stops in going after virtual machines and more dense deployments. There's always a comfort factor in having physical machines to point at - but it's very expensive. It might have been OK in the past, but financing is now an issue, and people are getting pushed over the hump."


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