The Stack Archive Article

What data centre transformation means for power and cooling

Mon 15 May 2017 | Geoff Denham

Datacentres are transforming as new technologies disrupt traditional IT architectures. But what are some of these technologies and what impact will they have on the physical environment and its demands for right-sized power and cooling?

Hybrid cloud

Relax, a cloud is basically an IT network or a datacentre. When people say private cloud, they mean a datacentre that they control, whether on their premises or remotely. By the same token, public cloud services are those derived from someone else’s datacentre or datacentres. Hybrid cloud is a mixture of these approaches, and it’s the logical conclusion from pretty much every organisation reasoning that their needs are best served with a horses-for-courses approach rather than going private-only or public-only. The only problem comes in how to manage (or ‘orchestrate’) their chosen, dynamic mix of resources efficiently, securely and for maximum performance, elasticity and usability.

Network functions virtualisation (NFV)

It used to be only servers that were virtualised; now it’s core network processes like DNS, switching, routing and even security. This makes them more efficient, automated and easier to manage. Apply NFV and what do you get? VNFs – virtual network functions.


Rather than having storage, compute (processing), virtualisation and networking resources as separate entities within the datacentre, a hyperconvergence system includes them all in a single piece of commodity hardware. Why? Because it makes scaling up a very simple process of adding more modules quickly and cheaply.

As enterprises grapple for control over these and other new technology capabilities, their aim is to realise new digital opportunities with more business agility, simplicity and scale. Standing in their way is the perennial challenge of operating an efficient physical datacentre environment under space and budget constraints, without compromising maximum uptime or wasting energy.

Forget ‘software-defined’ – datacentres are becoming software-dominated!

What all these new datacentre transformation technologies have in common is a complete reliance upon highly sophisticated software, which in addition means Vendors must ensure they overcome potential compatibility or integration challenges for end-users. One example is Schneider Electric’s APC PowerChute™ Network Shutdown v4.2 power protection software, which has recently received Nutanix Ready Core Management & Operations certification for Nutanix ESXi and Hyper-V hyperconverged infrastructure deployments.

The APC and Nutanix alliance delivers on the promise of hyperconvergence through a cohesive, total solution that simplifies typical IT commissioning and management, enabling a more optimised and efficient rollout of mission-critical systems.

As network and security appliances have virtualised in line with server and storage environments, the importance of hypervisors, orchestration platforms, cloud application brokers and other software-centric technologies have come to the fore. This in turn has driven the thirst for significantly greater CPU processing grunt as well as extra, faster 10/40/100 Gigabit network interconnects within the datacentre. The effect of this is twofold. On the one hand, we know that greater processing load can increase heat output from IT equipment. On the other, the increased capacity demands upon datacentre cabling is inevitably leading to a swap-out of copper infrastructure for fibre-optics. Where copper is retained, power load and heat output can both increase. Fibre cabling doesn’t share these characteristics and causes less problems for power and cooling planning.

The other major impact is equipment density, and this continues to be pursued aggressively by IT manufacturers. Even though some experts suggest that Moore’s Law may soon be broken, as processing chips cannot continue shrinking for more than another 5-10 years, much recent innovation has yet to make it into live enterprise datacentres. In other words, we are likely facing many more years of increasing IT equipment density, driven by software-dominated datacentre transformation technologies, and we will need to implement smarter power and cooling solutions to accommodate them.

Comtec Power has always stood apart in the UK market for its intimate knowledge of IT infrastructure and its needs. The relevance of these skills, based in part on our heritage as part of the wider Comtec Enterprises IT solutions and services group, has increased as datacentres are no longer the sole domain of facilities and estates professionals but rather a collaboration across business and strategic IT management.

Please contact me to discuss your requirements, or explore our services to learn more about our unique capabilities and accreditations.

Experts featured:

Geoff Denham

DC Design and Build Consultant

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