Paul Stennett is a product specialist at CableOrganizer.com — an online retailer of telecom/datacom/networking, electrical and cable and wire management products. He may be reached online at www.CableOrganizer.com.
Manufacturing.net: Forgetting profitability for a moment, what are the one or two most important things for manufacturers to keep in mind when it comes to their server rooms?
Stennett: With servers responsible for storing and distributing data among employees and customers, alike, they are the backbone of just about every modern business.
First, cooling is extremely important to the overall energy costs of your server room. With all the power a server generates, it’s going to take more than the integrated fan to keep it cool! There are many ways your cooling situation may become compromised, both inside and outside the cabinet. When installing your servers, make sure cooling needs are accurately calculated. When adding any equipment to your server room setup, it is imperative that you recalculate your cooling needs according to the additional energy consumption (heat production).
Believe it or not, poor cable management is one of the most pervasive causes of overheating, downtime, decreased component service life, and increased labor times and costs. Getting those cables properly installed from the get-go keeps the air flowing freely, increases visibility, provides strain relief and makes swapping equipment a breeze. This often ignored facet of network installation can make or break your setup without very little outside help.
Also, many installers make the huge mistake of packing a certain number of cabinets with high power draining, high heat generating servers while filling other cabinets with passive patch panels. This is not a good idea! Failing to balance out the heat in your cabinets can lead to hot spots in your server room, which makes one portion of your cooling system work a lot harder. This, of course, causes much more energy use to keep that area cool (not to mention shorter service life on all components involved!).
For some reason, server cabinets are the world’s biggest dust magnets. Accumulated dust can clog your fans, block air to your equipment, and cause overheating as a result. Having your server room cleaning top to bottom on a regular basis is sure to save you lots of money and trouble in the end. Also, be sure to keep the doors to your server room sealed to help keep dust out and improve overall cooling efficiency.
Manufacturing.net: Due to their mission-critical importance, shouldn’t manufacturers just worry about keeping a server room online, no matter the cost?
Stennett: Of course, this type of mission critical power comes at a cost but, if you strategize your server farm with a budget boosting mindset, you can realize great cost savings in the long run without sacrificing efficiency or performance.
With so much at stake, many IT installers will choose the top brands when selecting equipment. While this strategy will probably provide the performance you need, it doesn’t mean that same performance and reliability could not be achieved more affordably. Before automatically equating price with performance, try checking out popular forums like www.serverwatch.com and www.spiceworks.com for professional equipment reviews. You may find an affordable Dell server that is tested and proven to perform just like that Cisco you almost bought!
Though it is nice to be prepared for growth so you are not overwhelmed, you simply don’t need an 18x24 room full of top of the line servers for a small business with a handful of employees. Always buy only what you need to run your operation, adding a bit of headroom “just-in-case”. Too much of a good thing can certainly be bad!
Manufacturing.net: Are there any reliable strategies for managing all that heat, which, as you stated, is probably the biggest concern for server rooms?
Stennett: As heat is generated only by devices that are running, there is much money to be saved by powering down devices when they no longer need to be running. This can be very difficult to do when you’re not in the building! For businesses that don’t need all engines going 24/7, these PDU provide the option to safely shut down certain machines at the times of your choosing, and the most advanced models give you full programmability by each individual outlet. These PDUs can be fully software integrated into your system for the easy and full control of your entire power situation. Even better, an efficient managed PDU will pay for itself in a few short years.
Solar power is an option that is now becoming very popular. Though expensive to install, solar systems will pay for themselves in a few years. To add even more safety to your investment, the photovoltaic batteries they use are generally guaranteed for a quarter of a century. The only downside is that the availability of solar energy depends completely on the weather. Surely, Tucson is a much better place to harness solar power than Seattle!
Manufacturing.net: What about “virtualization”? It’s a word that’s thrown around a lot, but many seem to think it’s beyond their expertise.
Stennett: Virtualizing your servers is a great way to make the best of your resources. Instead of buying additional servers, virtualization allows you to partition the resources while masking the physical location. For example, if you’re using dual core processor server, it can easily be made to appear and operate as 2 separate servers. This instantly saves you money by requiring you to by half the hardware you would need without it!
Manufacturing.net: Any other techniques to ensure that your server room doesn’t become obsolete in a year, like it often feels with that laptop?
Stennett: When it comes to information technology, standards are extremely difficult to pin down. Even so, when buying equipment, cooling systems and cabling, it’s best to think about the future whenever possible. Becoming thoroughly knowledgeable about upcoming trends in the industry will prove to be a massive benefit to profitability. It is often not much more expensive to build a server room using standards geared towards the future, but it is always expensive to buy lots of equipment only to replace it in a year!