Dynamic opportunity

The recent DatacenterDynamics event held in Dubai brought together a number of prominent vendors and end-users to discuss the latest infrastructure trends and developments.

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By  Sean Robson and Sathya Mithra Ashok Published  January 5, 2009

Setting datacentres first

The panelists at DatacenterDynamics discussed the various issues facing datacentre deployment and operation in the region.

Green technology options, energy conservation, and the need for increased co-operation between the facilities and IT teams were just some of the topics that were discussed by the panel at the DatacenterDynamics event that was held early last month in Dubai.

"When a datacentre is being constructed, all elements of the building's systems have to be considered during the design phase. There has to be a convergence of IT with the building's systems. We might be seeing more of this convergence, but we are yet to see sufficient levels of service and support in the region," said Mark Lewington, director of Waterman Emirates.

All the panelists stressed the fact that while many datacentres are being constructed and put to use in the region, most of them are not yet of the same standards of their western counterparts, and much of this difference centres around the lack of interaction between IT and facilities, and non-adherence to back-up and disaster recovery requirements.

"From the operational perspective, the management or direction of a network operations centre (NOC), service delivery or ITIL is not about meter reading. It is about increased information usage, enabled by IT automation.

The next stage of facilities and IT coming together should be a combined operations centre for both facilities and the network. This will provide increased operational efficiency and much better integration," said Kuldeep Bhatnagar, datacentre consultant and advisor to the Environment Agency in Abu Dhabi.

Addressing the continuing bugbear of business continuity and disaster recovery, Dhiraj Lal, country manager of BCMI said, "When it comes to the issue of service delivery, some things are more important than others.

This has to be decided on the absolute level of tolerance as compared to the timeframe. Decisions have to be made on whether 100% of data has to be replicated, or just 20% is necessary. This will have to be done from the perspective of the timeframe in which the organisation will require the data to be available."

"Business continuity has to start from the business end. Service levels have to be decided on the basis of whether data can be down for five days, or needs to be up in five minutes. One has to understand how data flows through the firm and what each of the departments might need. Companies should not be afraid to start small and work bottom up," he added.

Mick Dalton, senior director of asset management at Emaar added, "Some other basics have to be given careful consideration. Datacentres need diverse power supplies. Building capacity, water supply and grid supplies have to be planned in a datacentre. The location of the server room has to be chosen with care. You have to calculate so many external factors (including chemical, mechnical and electric failure), that IT becomes secondary."

The panelists also discussed an issue with datacentre services that is uniquely regional - the lack of floor space for setting up efficient server rooms.

"Land is owned by the master developer and there is always a lengthy discussion and negotiation process involved in getting the space for datacentres. Since real estate is a profit venture, developers are reluctant to make adequate space for datacentre facilities, especially when they can be sold for residential or commercial uses. Therefore, here, data actually plays second fiddle to the amount of real estate space that can be sold," says Dalton.

All the panelists agreed that since the return on investment from land was much higher in commercial ventures, not much attention was paid to datacentres. However, they do believe that this will slowly change.

"The UAE is working towards better datacentre provisions at the government level. Many governments in the region are also moving towards better datacentres with a greater vision for business continuity," said BCMI's Lal.

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