Data centre masters

The ongoing rise of the data centre across the Middle East means more power to the channel’s elbow, reports Piers Ford.

Tags: Opti-UPS International Corporation ( integratorTrackTripp Lite
  • E-Mail
Data centre masters
More pics ›
By  Piers Ford Published  November 11, 2011

The ongoing rise of the data centre across the Middle East means more power to the channel’s elbow, reports Piers Ford.

As businesses look to consolidate their data repositories in environments appropriate to their scope and size, they require increasingly sophisticated and intuitive methods to manage those infrastructures with greater efficiency, particularly when it comes to power consumption and cooling.

Consequently, the demand for skilled suppliers who understand the extent to which the right combination of cooling products, UPS technology and power distribution units can benefit the organisation in terms of system availability, resilience and economy is at an all-time high. And infrastructure vendors are looking to the channel to deliver these benefits for their customers.

“Some VARs and systems integrators have especially trained themselves and their technical teams to be totally updated with the latest technologies around data centre deployment,” said Kamlesh Kumar Amesur, sales and marketing director MENA at UPS specialist Opti-UPS. “These partners are highly influential in guiding the contractor or end-user to choose the most optimised solutions depending on their applications, business criticality, space constraints, budget availability and other important factors.”

Basil Ayass, enterprise product manager at Dell Middle East, says it is very easy for the channel to simply build a data centre for a customer in the region. But it’s far more difficult to set up an efficient, right-sized data centre, leveraging the best practices in energy and space efficiency.

“Choosing the right channel partner with certified resources and skills is paramount to ensuring that a data centre project is a success,” he said.

And that’s the biggest challenge for the channel. The UAE leads the way in data centre growth, but other areas in the region are playing catch-up, and resellers and SIs are chasing technology skill sets that, while they are developing rapidly, are still relatively thin on the ground.

So a skills shortage combined with the rapid evolution of power management and cooling technologies means resellers have quite a mountain to climb. The days are long gone when it was simply a matter of selling a commodity UPS equipment into a project, almost as an afterthought.

Educational push

Vendors have embarked on an aggressive educational push to address this shortage amongst existing and potential channel partners. Power protection specialist Tripp Lite, for example, combines regular training for its certified Critical Application Partners with an online portal offering self-study courses. Dell’s partners engage in annual education schemes to maintain their certification and skills sets. As well as training partners on its own technology, Chatsworth Products International (CPI) runs channel programmes approved by industry standards organisations such as BICSI and AIA, designed to present a holistic view on thermal and power considerations.

A quick look at some recent innovations makes the urgency of these schemes and programmes abundantly clear. CPI has recently pioneered its passive cooling technology, which claims to save up to 40% on data centre energy costs and 90% on cooling costs, according to regional sales manager Sundeep Raina.

“We have also joined forces with some industry leaders like Cisco and Juniper, creating innovative and unique solutions that address thermal challenges posed by equipment that exhausts hot air side-to-side and not front-to-back,” said Raina.

“Our total solution does not stop there. CPI continues to assess the market and listen to the wants and needs of its customers, which allows us to offer customised solutions to solve their problems. These solutions vary from the smallest change of a specified product colour to the more creative solution of aisle containment incorporating two-post racks and cable management.

“We believe that each data centre is different and comes with unique challenges. We like to study each case and propose optimised solutions that fit the situation. If that means that we would need to customise, we do. It could be a simple installation of vertical exhaust duct cabinets or a hybrid solution deploying hot and cold air segregation with some aisle containment utilising non-contained or open cabinets,” Raina added.

UPS offerings

At Tripp Lite, vice president Middle East and Africa, Vipin Sharma, says modular and green UPS systems offering high efficiency and remote management accessibility, and intelligent power distribution units are the order of the day.

“All these products incorporate technologies that increase efficiency in power management and we believe this is a key unique selling point,” he said.

And at Opti-UPS, Kamlesh Kumar Amesur claims ownership of the world’s “most scalable” UPS system, together with a range of 3phase UPS systems that also offer higher efficiency, low power consumption and adapted green technologies.

All of which goes to show that the humble UPS has a significant new lease of life in the data centre. Amesur says there is no room for doubt. The industry is focusing on eliminating liability rather than just reducing it. UPS systems must be designed with highest levels of available power modules, be scalable, hot-pluggable, hot-swappable, expandable, have the lowest mean time between removals and minimum levels of heat signatures and space density.

“Power blackouts, brownouts and dropouts can cause major malfunctions and interruptions in equipment and IT systems, costing thousands of dollars in lost business and data,” said Tripp Lite’s Sharma.

“We provide our UPSs with modular technology, which has enabled their capacity to be extended to support the increased critical loads as data centres grow. Additionally, by paralleling UPS modules in parallel-redundant configurations, the availability of UPS systems, and consequently the availability of the critical systems they support, has been significantly enhanced.”

“Many organisations in the Middle East are dealing with data centre facilities that are running out of space, power, cooling or perhaps a combination of all three,” said Dell’s Basil Ayass.

“The available power infrastructure from the utility companies and the hot weather in the Middle East region are the two main challenges customers face in running their data centres. UPS technology will help protect against these problems by providing conditioned power to smooth out the sags and spikes as well as providing battery backup power to cover power sags and complete power failures.”

There is clearly an opportunity for distributors and resellers to offer tailored solutions that address the entire power consumption and cooling spectrum, and vendors are also stepping in on this front. For example, Tripp Lite’s Solution Integration Service is designed to complement its complete product range, which includes tools to help manage power consumption across the network from any location.

In a similar way, CPI works with its partners to address specific efficiency issues that combined, can save the customer significant costs. Take multiple PDUs and RPPs (remote power panels), which all generate heat and must be cooled or calculated into the overall cooling budget, said Sundeep Raina.

“Many of these electrical components could be more easily cooled in an electrical room for less money than on a data centre floor,” he said. “Also moving these electrical components off the data centre floor makes sense concerning safety. Why would you want an electrical component in your data centre that has potential for failure and events that could impact your high value compute?”

Consultancy opportunities

This array of consultancy opportunities is music to the ears of distributors in the data centre sector, who can build best of breed portfolios that address the specific needs of different customers.

“Customers in the Middle East are moving away from the traditional approach of having partners for individual components of data centres, like servers, storage and switches,” said Sujay Patil, Cisco data centre manager at Track Distribution.

“They are looking for channel partners who can consolidate their IT infrastructure and provide them with innovative, one-stop solutions on data centres. The channel in turn is gearing up for this challenge, looking out for innovative solutions from the major IT multinationals with which they can reduce the CAPEX and OPEX expenses of the customer and become a one-stop solution for data centres.”

Track Distribution has created a portfolio specifically for the hitherto neglected SMB sector, comprised of Cisco servers, Nexus switches, VMware, Netapps storage servers and APC rack products.

“According to multiple market research studies, strong and steady growth in IT spending is projected for the next five years and will be fuelled by data centre virtualisation and public cloud computing services,” said Patil.

“While growth cuts across all market segments, the SMB segment is expected to experience the next wave of accelerated growth as cloud services bring enterprise-class solutions to small and medium-sized businesses. Looking at this growth we are guiding our channel partners in the Middle East region to provide innovative data centre solutions to the SMB segment and also provide cloud services using Cisco data centre solutions to the customers.”

The arrival of the cloud, vendors are widely in agreement, will not preclude rising investment in data centre infrastructure technology and opportunities for the channel to exploit.

“Is the cloud the answer to reducing high energy costs? Only slightly,” said Sundeep Raina at CPI. “It has moved the cooling and power needs to another point in the system, which can run at higher efficiencies than the smaller data centre spaces. There are various efficiency gains associated with cloud computing which can help in reducing cooling and power demands, but these same gains in efficiency can also easily be employed by end-users.

“Many of these gains are what we have suggested for years, to run your computing at the highest level of utilisation possible (virtualise the servers) then contain that hot air, minimising the mixing with the cold air supply. Lastly, look at using the most efficient cooling solutions, from EC fan technology to innovative evaporative and economised air-cooling solutions. All of these are things that many of the large cloud computing providers are starting to deploy.”

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code