The Business Case for Data Center Upgrades

Data centers are complex facilities where equipment on server racks, power systems and cooling infrastructure must work in concert with other technological platforms to operate effectively. As a result, an upgrade in one area may require consequent enhancements to other parts of the facility’s operations. According to a recent InfoWorld report, this rule of upgrades is especially prevalent when dealing with cooling systems.

Periodically, InfoWorld will publish a true story of an IT professional’s personal experience. In a recent report, the news source tells the tale of a data center employee who experienced the full brunt of what can happen when cooling systems are upgraded relative to other technologies.

The data center involved in the report was running contemporary server and power systems for the most part, but it was also using an archaic cooling setup. Despite attempts to convince the company to upgrading cooling infrastructure, business managers refused because of cost, political and logistical reasons. The refusal to upgrade created major problems one hot summer day.

The employee in the report concluded his morning commute and found the data center in disarray with all of the windows and doors open and IT employees running around, setting up as many fans as possible. It turns out the cooling system gave out during the early morning, and temperatures had risen to over 100 degrees inside the facility. At first, hardware operations were maintained. However, the company quickly realized it had to shut all of the equipment down to prevent hardware failure and subsequent data loss. Some systems were easy to power down, and approximately 20 percent of the data center servers were properly shut down immediately. However, the rest of the servers had to be manually turned off, and the original SAN was setup with a power system that had 50 switches that needed to be hit in a specific order to shut down properly. The whole shut down process took a few hours.

Two days later, the air conditioning system was running again. However, the report said, it took another similar failure to get the company to upgrade the infrastructure, and the enhancement only duplicated the current system adding redundancy.

Businesses that operate data centers need to understand that the cost of downtime can often outweigh the expense of having to upgrade infrastructure. A recent Ponemon Institute whitepaper researched the total cost of downtime and found that most data centers will lose approximately $5,600 per minute when systems are down.

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The Business Case for Data Center Upgrades - RackSolutions
Upgrading a data center is actually better for business despite the money required to make updates because the cost of downtime usually outweighs the expense of having to upgrade infrastructure.
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