Playing it cool

Middle East enterprises are often accused of paying very little attention to power and cooling inside the datacentre. But if the recent turnout at the DatacenterDynamics 2007 event in Dubai is anything to go by, things are on the turnaround.

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By  Sathya Mithra Ashok Published  December 23, 2007

If there is one thing that dominated the DatacenterDynamics 2007 event's recent chapter in Dubai, it was the issue of power and cooling inside the datacentre.

The event which was held in early December brought together experts in the areas of facilities management as well as IT technologies. Both these areas were extensively covered in their own separate halls at the one-day gathering. The IT presentations discussed everything from cables management to infrastructure deployment and administration, while facilities talks featured largely power and cooling concerns.

Even if one was not inclined to count heads it was rather easy to make out that the facilities discussions were gathering nearly double the number of audience as the IT side.

And the audience was not just facilities managers - it included a roughly equal mix of IT network managers, datacentre technicians, CIOs and, in some cases, even higher management heads. Even pessimists would be inclined to believe that by itself is indicative of the growing interest in power and cooling considerations in datacentres of the Middle East.

The Middle East has so far been rather lucky with power considerations. In most of the western world, power has grown to be extremely expensive even as environmental considerations have given rise to regulations for controlling carbon emissions across organisations. Unlike this state of affairs, most of the Middle East has relatively low costs on power and since a majority of datacentres are greenfield ones, carbon emissions remain low on the priority list for enterprise management.

However, so does power and cooling concerns.

When an enterprise is setting up a datacentre for the first time, the principal concern for most of them remains how and where to set up each of the IT infrastructure elements. Planning and management often goes into raised floors, into the ins and outs of cabling, into the best placement for all the network elements but often almost none goes into the power and cooling elements.

This is often because of the huge communication gap that exists between the IT team and the facilities management department. The IT team believes the facilities management will take care of cooling inside the datacentre and the facilities team wait for a full picture of infrastructure usage and cooling requirements from the IT team which might never appear. Often this ends up in the facilities team over-provisioning the datacentre which means that it is almost always operated in temperatures that are too intensely cold. This can often damage the sensitive IT equipment resident in the room apart from driving up costs for the enterprise.

While all this has been generally true of Middle East organisations until recently, it was heartening to see the turn out of end-users at the facilities management presentations at DatacenterDynamics. A quick straw poll found that while power is not top of the list concern for most of them yet, end-users do want to get optimal performance out of their infrastructure. What's more many of them had either already installed solutions to monitor and report on cooling inside the datacentre or were actively considering deploying the solution soon.

And their reason for being at the event? To learn about the latest in products and solutions in the power and cooling sector as well as getting a feel of the best practices being employed by other firms in the region.

Now if that is not a mark of improvement - and a rather big one at that - I am not sure what would count as one.

Write to me at sathya.ashok@itp.com on your thoughts on the issue of power and cooling within enterprise datacentres especially in the Middle East region.

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