Thursday, 30 April 2009

Google Book Search

In news today, Google are setting up a deal to digitise thousands of books so that they are available to download from the Internet for users worldwide. At present the deal is only being agreed for the United States, but is expected to be expanded across the globe. Many see this as a positive step as it will make books more accessible and safe-guard books from going out of print in the future, as well as re-releasing out of print books on the Internet. Others view the move as a potential future monopoly on all digitised books, which may well have significant repercussions on the future of publishing.

From an environmental perspective there are many pros and cons on both sides of the argument.

At present, it takes roughly 43 trees to make 1000, 1lb books, using the pulping process. This does not take into account the manufacturing process and how much carbon this consumes, along with delivery and marketing. suggest that each book requires 1.3 trees to be planted to make the process carbon neutral. But how much carbon would be used to scan and store the number of books being suggested by google?

It is highly recognised that data centres are one of the biggest producers of CO2 in the world. To run a 1MW data centre for 1 year, you would produce over 8,300 tonnes of CO2, and that doesn't include staff or production and destruction of equipment. The amount of trees required to make that 1MW data centre carbon neutral would approach 17,000 every year (or 395,000 1lb books!).

Google are very conscious of their carbon footprint, whether it is for ethical or economic reasons. They are constantly recording PUEs of 1.21, and have measured one data centre as low as 1.15. With this in mind, how many forests are Google plating to offset its digitisation of millions of books?

Friday, 24 April 2009

Major move to Outsourcing - but is it right?

According to an article published on Kabelnet, there will be a major move to outsource services caused by the current financial crisis ‘to save money’. The author, Tony Travers, says if attempts by some councils to outsource large parts of their functions succeed, "almost every authority in the country will be inexorably pulled" towards this model.

The reason for the outsourcing appears to be about saving money, and that it will involve different organisations – mainly in the public sector, such as primary care trusts, and police forces.

But is outsourcing the right thing to do?

It depends. It is essential to get professional advice. There’s more to it than just the cost. Consider the data you hold, look at the security implications and remember, there is no such thing as 'one size fits all'. All hosting and coloctation facilities are different - offering differing levels of security, service and provision.

In our experience, refurbishing an existing facility, or converting existing rooms or buildings into a new computer room will have a payback time (ROI) of less than 7 years. That may be too long in the current climate, but it must be considered.

Outsourcing to a co-location provider can’t be an abdication of responsibility for the security of the data being held off site. It may seem like the easy option but outsourcing a computer room facility has other challenges that must be carefully considered.

This having been said, moving to a well run, secure, hosted data centre facility is right for some businesses. Using an experienced specialist company to provide an independent assessment of the business need is essential in making the right decision.

Whether you are a customer considering outsourcing to a hosting or colocation company, or you are a hosting or colocation company hoping to secure a deal, it is essential that you use independent specialist advice to help you make the right decision. Whether customer or provider, you are essentially about to enter into a 'marriage' and it is important that you are right for each other!

Migration Solutions is a vendor independent computer room and data centre specialist company. Take a look at our website at

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Migration Solutions on BBC Radio 4

Migration Solution’s Managing Director, Alex Rabbetts spoke on BBC Radio 4’s Costing the Earth on Monday evening.

The programme, called Virtual Warming, discusses “the contribution to CO2 emissions of huge ICT data processing warehouses”.

Alex comments on the record of the data centre industry, which he says has been pretty appalling. He says that although we like to think that the industry is solving a lot of the world’s problems, with the likes of internet banking, social networking sites and video conferencing the industry has never looked inwards to the data centre itself.

Data centres use huge amounts of power and pumping huge amounts of heat and CO2 into the atmosphere. Is there something we should be doing better? says Rabbetts, and we need to start looking at the issue now.

Regulation and government requirements are driving the need to store data up and up. The current financial crisis will almost certainly make the requirement to store data even higher with increased auditing. Growth in areas such as on-line shopping, social networking and even the BBC iPlayer is growing the requirement for storage at an exponential rate.

You can hear the full programme via the BBC Radio 4 website’s ‘Listen Again’, or contact Migration Solutions. Migration Solutions is a specialist computer room and data centre specialist offering independent advice on the design, build and operation of data centres and computer rooms. Visit our website at

Thursday, 16 April 2009

What Tier is your data centre?

This week saw the Uptime Institute's 2009 Symposium in New York. The Uptime Institute has, as many of us know, created different data centre levels so that it is quick and easy to see what you are getting for your money, and why a tier II is significantly cheaper than a tier IV. They visit data centres and grade them on a number of different areas, watts/ft, raised floor height, amount of downtime permissible, level of resilience and redundancy etc... which gives us mere mortals a simple scale to match a data centre or co-lo to our needs.

The tiering system was created for a client who needed to explain to their management where there money was being spent, and what they would get for it. This system has become a worldwide phenomenon and many people now refer to their data centres as being 'Tier 1' or 'Tier 4'. But do you trust their accuracy?

Many colocation and hosting companies offer their services up as being Tier 3 or 4 in the UK, (sometimes even 'Tier 3 Plus' ... what's that all about?), suggesting that they have 99.982% or 99.995% site availability, but how honest are they being? Firstly, the Uptime Institute certifies very few data centres outside of the US, with only one in the UK certified as Tier 3. The principle of the idea, to make it easy for anyone to understand the required elements, is a good one. The problem is, very few organisations actually do understand what is required to meet any of the tier levels. For this reason, their claims of being 'Tier 3' or Tier 4' are very misleading. Data centres claimed as being Tier 3 that have windows on the perimeter of the computer room - not allowed! Tier 4 data centres that don't have an operations room directly accessible from the computer room - not allowed! Tier 3 data centres with one loading bay - not allowed! It must have one per 2,500 square metres! A Tier 3 data centre that doesn't have a 'single person interlock, portal or other hardware designed to prevent piggybacking or pass back of access credential, preferably biometrics' - if it doesn't comply, it simply isn't Tier 3!

So what can we do? Our recommendation? Work out your exact requirements for a data centre based on YOUR needs and your appetite for risk and downtime. Next, if they claim to be 'Tier' something - ask them to demonstrate how they are - guaranteed they'll talk about their airconditioning being N+1, (or at least the CRAC units), or their generator that has 72 hours of fuel on site, but what about the construction materials used for the ceiling, the distance from their dedicated campus fencing, (oh yes, they need it for Tier 3!), or the actual pitch of the roof? They're all there in the standards, along with over 200 other requirements! Next, get an audit done of the facility to see where it actually sits in the tiering standards (we'll do it if you like!). And finally, now that you are fully armed with the real truth .... negotiate! There is no point in paying for something that is blatently not provided!

Migration Solutions are a specialist data centre consultants who focus on the operation, migration and design of new data centres and upgrading older facilities. Crucially, Migration Solutions are vendor independent allowing them to give impartial advice based on extensive experience. For more information visit

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Metering the Data Centre

PUE, DCiE, what’s it all about? PUE is a metric developed by The Green Grid to measure Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE); DCiE (Data Centre infrastructure Efficiency) is simply the inverse of PUE reported as a percentage. OK, so now we are in recession. There are, and will be more, calls for spending cuts and more efficiency from existing hardware and our staff. PUE and DCiE can play an important part in this.

But where to start? As we are talking data centres, look at the power consumption. Or more accurately, look to see if you can look at the power consumption. It is amazing how many data centres and computer rooms, even the new builds don’t have metering installed to monitor power consumption. Data centres are estimated to contribute 3% of the CO2 emissions globally, yet the vast majority of data centre managers have no idea how much energy their facility consumes – let alone where to start making savings.

How do you get on with your company’s Facilities Manager? Ok, putting that aside, it’s imperative that there is a good working relationship between these vastly important departments (IT and Facilities) as these two hold the key to reducing energy consumption, and therefore costs, more than any other department.

Look at it from the Facility’s Managers point of view. He has little if any impact on what is installed in the data centre. All he or she will see is the monthly or quarterly electricity bills coming in with little idea of where to reduce costs, or indeed, where the costs are coming from. Keeping him/her in the picture is incredibly important.

With metering installed a whole range of other opportunities for savings is opened up. Chargeback for example. Facilities charge IT for power used, IT charge the business, whether on an application basic or per U basis. The method can be agreed, the important thing is that metering opens the doors to making the whole business aware of the true cost of powering the data centre. Metering at the rack or server level isn’t necessarily needed. That’s an additional expense and an overhead to monitor. Although it would be great, keep it simple to start.

Working together to install electricity meters to enable the PUE and DCiE to be calculated and logged on a regular basis is a start. It is also imperative to log your consumption regularly by taking meter readings and trending the power usage, what impacts it and what changes it.

How much will you save by installing these meters? Without proper metering, who knows?

Migration Solutions is a specialist computer room and data centre specialist offering independent advice on the design, build and operation of data centres and computer rooms. See our website at, or email us at

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Facilities Manager - Friend or Foe?

In the computer rooms and data centres that we visit there is invariably friction, to say to the least, between the IT department and the Facilities department. IT don’t want to allow access to ‘their’ computer rooms, and facilities need access to maintain the plant.

These frictions need to be overcome. Facilities do need access to the computer room, and this should be allowed in a controlled manner, and if necessary, accompanied by a member of the IT team. Don’t forget however, that access could be required 24/7.

Ideally the computer room or data centre should be built with Facilities in mind. Putting the chillers in corridors outside of the room means that they can be worked on without the need for anyone to access the secure rooms. The environmental monitoring system should be linked to the in-house BMS – usually within the Facilities team’s domain. There is no reason however, why access shouldn’t be given to the data collected by it or to be on the list of people to be paged, emailed and/or sent a text message in the event of an alarm. Indeed, this can be beneficial to everyone as the IT Ops team are often required to work 24 hour shifts.

As I will be discussing tomorrow, metering should be installed in any computer room to allow for the calculation of PUE and DCiE, and to allow for ‘charge back’ to encourage everyone within the business to reduce energy costs. Facilities charge IT for the energy used, IT charge their customers in some way - whether by application, U space, or some other metric.

Building strong working relationships between these business critical teams is imperative. With modern IT infrastructure, cooling and power requirements, IT and facilities will have to work closer together. Migration Solutions specialises in designing data centres and computer rooms for operation. We understand how to operate a well run facility.

For more information see our website at or email us at

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Time for a Spring Clean!

If a non-IT colleague visited your computer room or data centre I bet that they would be shocked by the amount of dust and dirt in there – it’s like a 15-year olds bedroom. Thank goodness food and drink are generally banned! It is amazing that most offices are cleaner that a great number of computer rooms.

It’s a ridiculous state of affairs, when dust and dirt are probably the biggest enemies to any computer equipment. Dust and dirt clog the fans trying to cool the equipment which therefore increases the chances of overheating and subsequent failure. It gets into the CRAC units, clogging the filters and makes them run inefficiently. This leads to additional costs and CO2 emissions caused by all those fans working overtime!

Dust and dirt can be carried into the room on footwear and clothing, from inappropriate ceiling tiles and from having unsealed slabs at floor and ceiling height. Carpet and carpet tiles should never be used in a computer room environment; they harbour dust and are difficult to keep clean.

Cardboard is also often found in computer rooms. Another no-no. The dust created from opening and tearing boxes is very fine, and is attracted to the fans in you IT equipment.

So, as it’s now spring, think about a good old fashioned spring clean. It can be done for next to nothing and will improved the life of your equipment, and reduce your running costs.

Remove all cardboard, packaging, and other rubbish from your facility. Then look at removing those boxes of cables lying on the floor, the polystyrene, the CD cases from the tops of servers, and all the other debris.

Show your ops guys and gals what a hoover is, and get them using it on a regular basis. It doesn’t take long – and will make all the difference. Set up a cleaning schedule which can be added to the Ops Checklists. Install Tak-mats at the entrances. These are just the basics.

Why not consider getting in specialist cleaning company to carry out a ‘clinical clean’? Find a suitable ‘de-boxing’ area so that there is no need to take cardboard into the computer rooms.

These are all easy steps for minimal cost and can make all the difference, as well as being a more pleasant working environment.

Migration Solutions is a vendor independent computer room and data centre specialist company. As well as designing and building facilities, we operate them. We understand the importance of good housekeeping in any facility. For more information, take a look at our website at

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Saving on Servers

The market research company Gartner ( has just released the latest figures detailing how the big IT companies are doing in these financially turbulent times. Compared to last year, Dell has seen a fall of 11.2% in revenue from server sales indicating that IT budgets have been slashed as companies tighten their belts. IBM appears to have fared worse with a fall of 17.4% in their server sales revenue. As a whole the market has fallen 15% which has had a direct impact on the share prices of these companies, falling between $20-30 in the last 6 months.

In the average data centre, large server purchases have been put on hold until the economy recovers and until companies have more money to invest. The result of this has been that IT staff have been looking for extra space on existing servers, consolidating servers with low activity to free up servers for other uses and thinking about virtualisation. Running a server at 20-30% load does not give value for money from the purchase. It will not fully utilise the multi-core processors and will use comparitively more power per megabyte of information processed than if it was running at 80-100% load. Placing applications like payroll and accounts which only get run monthly or annually and do not clash on the same server, reduces the idle time and increases efficiency.

By consolidating servers you will increase the amount of free rack space and reduce the load on the air conditioning. When these power cost savings are combined with the reduction in the purchasing costs of new equipment large savings can be made.

Migration Solutions specialise in providing vendor independent advise of the design and operation of data centres enabling the optimum return of investment. For further information visit