Plug and pay

Arabian Computer News explores some of the critical issues behind datacentre infrastructure.

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By  Eliot Beer Published  August 13, 2007

In many ways, IT is one of the most exciting industries to work in. It brings fast-paced development of shiny, science-fiction like products to the masses - both consumers and enterprises - pushing forward the boundaries of what is possible.

Not only does IT deliver things such as instant, global communications, unimaginable processing power, and storage that would be inconceivable just decades ago, but it has also now pushed into the realms of high science - quantum computers, molecular computers and, artificial intelligence are now the vanguard of IT research.

Any infrastructure replacement involves mirroring existing server and storage facilities to allow services to be maintained while the network is disconnected.

And yet, when it comes to the core components, IT still comes down to a lot of boxes - in various colours - connected by wire. Lots of wire.

However apparently unglamorous the infrastructure is that IT systems sit in, it is still an absolutely vital component. Considering the value of the systems that will sit on the infrastructure - significant in itself - will be overshadowed by the value of the information and services running on the systems, making sure a datacentre's fundamentals are right is as critical as it gets.

Simon Wilson, portfolio leader for enterprise data solutions at Nortel, says he sees the increasing centralisation and integration of business systems in the datacentre as a key reason to focus on the fundamental infrastructure: "We're now seeing large organisations consolidate their phone systems, for example, from PBXs in every office to now having two large IP media gateways and call servers. These sit in perhaps two datacentres - so suddenly they have more of their eggs in fewer baskets.

"Along with core enterprise systems, we're also seeing much greater penetration by customers into enterprises' systems - your customers, sales force, staff and suppliers are all coming in through the network. You're bringing everything you do together - and it all sits in the datacentre. Obviously this increases the amount of technology you have in there - servers, storage, security systems, high-speed internet links," Wilson continues.

"All these factors come in on top of each other, to make the datacentre something to be concerned about - and something that demands a lot of planning and forethought."

Making the right choice at the start of a project will not only have an impact on the datacentre's performance at its launch, but more importantly will go on to dictate how the facility performs in the years to come - or how much it costs to get the required performance.

"One of the most important things - and one of the most costly to change at a later date - is the fundamental physical layer in a datacentre," comments Ciaran Forde, managing director for the Middle East, Pakistan and Africa at Systimax, the market-leading cable provider. "The criticality of getting that right, on day one, is sometimes far higher than choosing the types of server or other active equipment, which can easily be changed."

Beyond just the choice of IT components -such as cabling or switching components - making good datacentre infrastructure choices is about finding the right location, and designing the right facility. With a working life potentially of decades, a datacentre should be ready to accommodate the future requirements of the business.

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