Welcome to the machine

The datacentre has landed – and Middle East enterprises are rolling them out as fast as they can. These projects are probably one of the largest capital outlays a company will make for several decades – so becoming a critical business project, rather than a mere IT deployment. ACN reports on what regional decision-makers need to know.

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By  Eliot Beer Published  July 2, 2007

"Without making too obvious a pun, the hot topic in datacentres at the moment is heat build up and removal," Connectix's Elliott says. "Since 2003 the advent of rack mounted servers and blade servers has raised the average heat load of an equipment rack from 1.7kW to a potential 25kW. Traditional designs of air conditioning just can't cope and building the datacentre in a hot climate only makes matters worse. The second topic is supplying enough electrical power."

Radlinger echoes Elliott's view: "A critical issue is being able to guarantee enough power and cooling to accommodate high density heat loads and future technological innovations requiring increased power."

While apparently straight-forward points, these issues are some of the toughest challenges to tackle - especially in the Middle East. A region which regularly encounters 50-degree summers is going to have problems accommodating a concentrated heat source such as a datacentre.

These issues can, of course, be dealt with - in the case of cooling, by ensuring the datacentre has adequate air conditioning. But it is not just a question of adding extra aircon units to the centre - enterprises need to take long-term growth into consideration.The alternative - major refits, or rebuilding - makes forward planning look even more attractive.

Planning makes perfect

The datacentre is a long-term project - likely to be with an enterprise for decades. And as with any major investment, the business needs to do the usual due diligence procedures - and set down a comprehensive plan for the project, including how it will develop in the coming years.

"If you run a datacentre project, you need to have a monitoring and reporting structure in place," explains Chopathar. "The project team needs to report back on a regular basis, based on those metrics defined at the start. If you build a new datacentre, it's not just about the datacentre, it's not just about the technology, not just about servers, storage networks, the applications. It's about business processes.

"In order to build a new datacentre, you need to align the business processes, and you need to align and scale the people behind it. So actually it's not just buying new gear, buying land somewhere and starting to build the centre - it's much more than that. That's why it needs to be reviewed regularly by the board."

Here to stay

The Middle East has passed the point of no return for datacentres - its businesses are now growing so fast that mature IT facilities are now a critical necessity. But the region's IT departments currently lack many of the skills needed to deploy datacentres effectively. They are clearly keen to rectify this, however - datacentre training programmes are springing up around the region, and filling up fast.

The region's hunger for datacentre knowledge suggests it will not be lagging behind the US and Europe for much longer in the race to secure corporate data.

Tier pressure

Current datacentre standards go from Tier I (lowest) to Tier IV (highest) - but even a Tier I datacentre has stringent requirements that must be met. Tier I costs start at around US$400/sq ft - Tier IV starts at $1,100/sq ft.

Tier I: No redundancy, single power path, so is vulnerable to external outages. Expect around 28 hours annual downtime.

Tier II: Single power source, but redundant components, so more resistant to equipment failure. Around 22 hours annual downtime.

Tier III: Redundant equipment and multiple power paths, but only one active at any time. Expect around 1.6 hours annual downtime.

Tier IV: Multiple redundant power and data feeds, redundant components and fault-tolerance capabilities. Around 0.4 hours downtime.

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