Tuesday, 30 June 2009


As you may be able to tell there is a heat wave happening in the UK! Throughout this week the temperatures will be increasing reaching a peak on Thursday. The Met Office has issued a Level 2 Heat-Health warning to prepare the public for the weather. While the temperatures may not be high compared to many places around the world, the UK is used to a more moderate heat and infrastructures are designed with this in mind.

Older data centres and computer rooms often start to overheat and fail in high temperatures, as the air conditioning struggles to cope with the increased heat levels and cooling. These facilities are also likely to be full to capacity. In a facility that is already on the limit of cooling, a heat wave becomes very dangerous, especially if a CRAC Unit (Computer Room Air Conditioning) were to fail. Old servers are also very sensitive to fluctuations in temperature. Increased heat requires the internal fans to spin faster to cool the equipment and if a fan stops working, a server can very quickly over heat and shut down. If any 1 server has business critical applications on it, you should be prepared.

Migration Solutions created a health check for data centres and computer rooms which looks at all aspects of a facility and gives it a scored rating. The ERA report comes with an entire section on improvements that can be made to help your Data Centre run more efficiently and effectively, and can identify possible problems that could result in down time. These improvements range from free, low man-time changes that can yield a 5-10% reduction in power costs to major works which include changing a facility layout, rack layout and replacing old plant equipment. An essential part of Data Centre management is preparing for the worst, and identifying the strengths and weakness of your facility is key. For more information on the Environmental Report and Assessment visit www.migrationsolutions.com.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Solar Servers

Humans are having a big impact on the world, and learning how to slow and eventually stop the processes that are affecting our environment is of key importance to humanity. Not only is it important from an environmental perspective, it is important for preparation for life without fossil fuels, which will become reality in the not too distant future. The technologies that have been developed in the past 20 years which include super efficient batteries, electric motors, and solar panels, will help to cut our reliance on coal and gas power stations to a level that would help our planet re-stabilise itself.

Data Centres use between 3-4% of all electricity produced in the world. As a major drain on the planet's resources, the sector as a whole needs to look at how much power we are using, what can be done to reduce power consumption and whether it will ever be viable to run a Data Centre that is environmentally neutral. At present, the only area that can be run totally neutrally is computer room air conditioning. Using fresh air cooling, Data Centres can make use of low external temperatures to cool an entire facility effectively for free, saving 40-50% of the overall power costs.

But what about the other 50-60% which provides the power to run the servers themselves? Many environmentally conscious Data Centre operators are choosing to use power from green sources like wind farms and hydroelectric but there is not enough of this type of power available for everybody. In the UK, solar panels have never been that effective at generating power and initial outlay far exceeds the returns that would be gained from the amount of power they can produce. Systems like the solar-thermal power plant in Seville, Spain are significantly more effective than the traditional solar panel, using heliostats to track the sun and concentrate its thermal energy into a heat exchanger that powers a steam turbine. It currently produces 11MW of power according to its owner, Solucar, which could power 4 or 5 large Data Centres, but the system requires a large amount of space and strong sunshine to operate at this level. Being 100% environmentally neutral by combining this technology with fresh air cooling, is not a viable option as they both require very different environments.

Two inventors, one in Massachusetts and one in Missouri, have come up with two different ideas to make solar technology cheap and efficient, both claiming 70-80% efficiency (normal solar panels range from 10-40% efficiency with a steep increase in cost) and at a fraction of current prices. One inventor has created two different materials that can be sprayed onto glass or plastic which create different layers of conductive metals to produce electrical power. The second inventor has used nanoantennae, tiny loops of highly conductive metal, each 1/25 the diameter of a human hair which can be stamped onto a variety of materials and harness power through the infra-red part of the light spectrum. The benefit of this system is that during the day the antenna can absorb power from the sun, but at night they can absorb the stored infra-red energy in the ground which is given off long into the night after the sun has gone down. Both are promising technologies and when the eventually go on sale they may be the answer to the environmentally neutral Data Centre.

Making your Data Centre as efficient as possible will reduce your yearly power bill significantly. Some very small, often free changes can return 5-10% savings in power. Migration Solutions are specialist consultants who created their ERA, Environmental Report and Assessment, to help Data Centre and computer room operators save running costs and extend the life of servers and their support equipment. For more information visit www.migrationsolutions.com or call 0845 251 2255

Friday, 26 June 2009

Michael Jackson and Cloud Computing

Google, ABC, AOL, CBS, CNN… to name a few were all hit hard this morning as news of Michael Jackson’s death spread like a ‘speed demon’ around the world.

The number of hits that these websites were getting were off the wall with Google believing it was under attack from a virus or spyware application during the peak of searches (between 0240 and 0315 Pacific time).

This begs the question, is it dangerous to rely on the cloud to cope with the demand of such relatively rare incidents? Cloud computing claims to have the technology to cope with such a massive influx of visitors, but has it? After all, we’re still relying on hardware based somewhere – working day and night, and when extra demand is needed how quickly can these dormant virtual machines be brought up?

It’s not black and white, who’s to say the architecture is robust enough to cope? Those promoting the cloud certainly Just can’t get enough of promoting their vision of a cloud based future.

In truth, the cloud is in its childhood, but growing up fast. A well defined, efficient architecture, using best practice techniques is very likely to offer an invincible solution that some current on-site computer rooms and data centres just don’t have.

It’s human nature to get excited about new technology, but persuading business to trust the cloud with their business critical data? It’s bad enough trying to convince business to move their data 25 miles out of their own London offices, let alone persuade them to send it into the cloud to a Stranger in Moscow.

There is no doubt that cloud computing is going to play a large part in the future of data. Once the fear of lack of data privacy is resolved we’ll be saying remember the time when we had all of our data stored on-site?

We’re almost there, whatever happens history will prove that cloud computing is coming of age. I’ll be there!

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Digital Britain

The final Digital Britain report was published last week with many interesting discussion points. The report was commissioned to ensure that the whole of the UK, from businesses to consumers could maximise the benefits that the internet and emerging technologies surrounding it can provide. Key points that were highlighted were the development of broadband across the country, especialy rural areas, so that the entire population can have access to higher download speeds; ensuring the public have sufficient IT and media literacy skills to take advantage of new technologies; creating a digital copyright framework to protect intellectual property rights to support and promote creativity along with investment opportunities and job creation in sectors important to the UK and to combat internet piracy to ensure the future of on-line music and film downloads.

One of the surprises that came out of the Digital Britain report was that all wired internet users will now have to pay a 'broadband tax' of 50p per month to help pay towards the expansion of fast internet across the country. There has been doubt expressed already that the government is just trying to look as if they are doing something to alleviate the problem, and that the big cabling providers do not require a "meaningless sweetener", and that it is just another stealth tax. When it comes to piracy, the government will only intervene as a last resort. This means that abusers will not be disconnected if they flout the law, which does not seem much of a deterrent. Whether this will work remains to be seen, but if after a year there are not significant improvements, Internet Service Providers will be asked to slow the abuser's connection speeds and as a last resort block their IP addresses. Removing the internet from the illegal downloader's appears to be one of the few viable ways of stopping piracy.

Data centres were touched on very briefly, maybe to explain to those not in the know what data centre is! All the report revealed is that the need for data centre and co-location space is increasing - which is stating the obvious! There does not appear to be a plan in place to help provide power for these 'in-need' data centres which is the biggest limiting factor at present. This means that power will remain very expensive as it becomes a bidding war for provision and it will become increasingly harder to obtain. As a result the public will end up picking up the cost.
So with all these 'revelations', internet use will increase while the ability to host the vital equipment needed to run the internet will remain limited!

Migration Solutions are a specialist, vendor neutral consultancy who focus on data centre design and builds; business continuity planning and disaster recovery; data centre migration and operation. For more information vist www.migrationsolutions.com

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Restoring trust for the future

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the highly honoured professor credited with being the father of the internet, has revealed that Gordon Brown has given him a job to assist the public in regaining the trust of their government. In new plans, Gordon Brown has agreed with Sir Tim, that taxpayers' money has paid for data about the government, so they should have access to it. This sudden bold move by the Prime Minister comes after a wave of resignations following the 'expenses scandal' which revealed that many MP's have been claiming for items and houses that they were not entitled to, passing them off as 'perks of the job'. Sir Tim's role will be to create a website that gives complete transparency of the government's expenditure in an attempt to restore trust before the next general election.

In 1989 Tim Berners-Lee, an Oxford graduate from London, presented the first proposal at CERN for an HTTP client for the sharing of information between scientists. In 1990 with the help of Robert Cailliau, they created the first communication via the internet. This team could also be considered the parents of the modern data centre. Data centres were already in use throughout the 1980's as the reliance on computing grew across the globe, but it wasn't until the internet took off in the mid 90's that data centres became what they are today. As many companies turned to the internet as a way of marketing and creating brand awareness, the internet exploded in size which resulted in the dotcom boom. As a result data centres evolved very quickly and many new facilities were constructed.

It is believed that data centres use 3% of the worlds electricity, while in the UK this figure is over 4%. This is equivalent to around 800 2MW data centres across the country. In reality this is made up of thousands of small 10 rack or less computer rooms. The figure gives an idea of just how much power we consume in IT. 1600MW would run 3.6 million homes for a year. While our requirement for data centre space is on the increase, computer processing capabilities are also increasing which allow a single server to perform multiple tasks more effectively and efficiently. The more efficiently a server works, the faster we can receive results from it and so our expectations of how long a task should take are reduced. As a result, we have created a perpetual cycle of power consumption that will be very had to slow down.

With the release of the full Digital Britain report today, the country is expecting to see an attainable action plan to get every person in the UK on the internet at a connection speed of at least 2Mbps. With 61 million people using the internet, and internet connections getting faster, eventually becoming fibre connections, data centres will need to have faster connections into the facilities and faster servers to process the information. This will just add more fuel to the perpetual technology cycle. The cost will fall to the consumer with a premium paid for faster connections and to the data centre operator who will have to increase the bandwidth to each facility. Improving data centre efficiency is likely to be the first step in keeping costs down. Migration Solutions has created a tool for this. ERA - the Environmental Report and Assessment takes a snapshot of all aspects of a data centre from the cooling to the layout, power to the processes and procedures, to help data centre operators save money and save the environment at the same time. For more information visit www.migrationsolutions.com

Friday, 12 June 2009

iPhone - The Next Generation?

As the whole world will know, Apple has announced the release of the new iPhone handset for next week. This small piece of equipment has been the market leader in smart phone technology since its initial release in June 2007. The iPhone has made the internet accessible from pretty much anywhere with mobile phone reception and as a result, many more people have been accessing the internet, reading and writing emails, downloading music and Twittering on the go rather than waiting until they are at their PC or Mac. The public is becoming more dependent on the internet for everything, and the iPhone is one of a handful of phones that is contributing to this dependency.
The iPhone now has a better camera, 3.2 megapixels over the 2 previously, and supports video capture. It can connect and transfer data faster than ever. For the consumer this is brilliant news, and for Apple it's even better as many people will upgrade their phone, but how will it affect the users, the data centre owners and the data centre operators?
The faster connection speeds will require faster processing power in data centres to keep up with the advancing technology. The consumer will expect the infrastructure to be able to support the new technology and so data centre operators involved with any aspect of the iPhone will have to improve and maintain their technology to keep up with the ever increasing demand for speed. For many ageing data centres, this will mean that old servers will need to be replaced with new, multi core processors with sufficient RAM and fast storage attached to a fibre or cat 7a based network connection. New equipment and faster processing will necessitate more efficient and reliable cooling. The faster processors and increased cooling will require more power which increases the cost of running a server. The net result? The public will end up paying a premium on the services relying on data centres - which will show up on your phone bill as higher line rental and data charges.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Refurbishment vs. New facilities

Whenever there is a hot summer, old and some not to old data centres and computer rooms suffer. As they overheat due to inefficiencies and under-cooling, management must decide whether it is more cost effective to patch the room up to last another year, to totally refurbish the computer room or to build a brand new computer room or data centre from scratch. This summer is likely to be no different with many people expecting some record temperatures.
The task of persuading the powers that be to choose one of these options lies with the facilities and operations departments explaining the viability of each choice to the finance director. It has been said before that facilities and operations rarely see eye to eye, often due to the differing natures of their jobs, so the management team rarely get an unbiased view of the true needs of the IT department. So what are the benefits of refurbishing a data centre vs. building a new facility and vice versa?

When refurbishing a facility there is one major problem that stands in the way; working around live equipment, be it plant or servers. Maintaining 24/7 operations during a refurbishment is possible, but special care needs to be taken by all parties working in close proximity to the facility. As workmen connect and test new plant, short circuits and power failures are a common hazard, as are people tripping over live cables and lifted floor tiles that span work areas.
In choosing a refurbishment, there are many areas in which budget can be saved when compared to a new build. Starting from scratch requires foundations, walls being built and services being connected, all of which may be avoided in a refurbishment saving time and money. The site will often be in, or close to the main office which appeals to many companies and IT departments and this also means it may be possible to reuse plant from the old facility.

Many computer rooms and data centres have evolved over time to become the backbone of company operations, but often, this Darwinist approach to IT results in a room that is the wrong shape, size and layout for modern computer equipment and the installed plant often struggles to cope with advances in computer power. Building a new computer room or data centre provides the ability of hindsight to prevent the same problems happening again, by future proofing the new facility from its outset.
A new data centre will be specifically designed for the businesses needs. Building from maximises the efficiencies of new technologies such as free and fresh air cooling, heat re-use and dust reduction. By designing a new facility, the ability to include de-box and test rooms adjacent to the computer room or data centre, secure delivery bays and single level entry to the finished floor level helps to maintain the operation of an efficient data centre. A problem that often arises from a refurbishment is that IT staffs still see it as the old facility and fall into bad habits that encourage poor patching which reduces airflows; poor housekeeping that increases dust levels; and poor security to name a few. A new facility is often treated like a new car; you want it looking like that day you took ownership for as long as possible so staffs try especially hard to maintain its high standards. By moving data over to a totally new facility you can start afresh and help maintain a reliable, efficient computer room or data centre for many years to come.

Every case is different and Migration Solutions are experts at recommending the most suitable options for each client. Migration Solutions has many years of experience in computer room and data centre design and construction utilising their operational experience to create a data centre that runs as efficiently as possible, but is also easy to use for the operations team. For more information visit www.migrationsolutions.com

Monday, 1 June 2009

Symantec Publishes 2009 Green IT Report

Symantec has just published its 2009 Green IT report, and it makes interesting reading. Here are some of the key facts:

97% of respondents state that they are discussing a green IT strategy
45% said that they have already implemented green IT initiatives

Key drivers are reducing electricity consumption (90%), reducing calling costs (87%), and corporate pressure to be green (86%).

The report also highlighted that organisations are prepared to pay a premium for more energy efficient servers with 95% reporting that new energy efficient equipment is part of their strategy, followed by monitoring power consumption (94%) server virtualisation (94%) and server consolidation (93%).

The report’s press release can be read in full via the Symantec website http://www.symantec.com/.

These results are positive, but in other news, published yesterday on the BBC’s website, sales of servers fell almost 25% in the first 3 months of 2009. That doesn’t look too promising for the move to ‘greener’ servers.

But is buying new the right thing to anyway from a green perspective? Old servers may use more energy to run, but what about the energy used to produce this new hardware, and the environmental impact of the disposal of the replaced devices?

There is so much more that can be done to improve the efficiency of a computer room and data centre, and a lot can be done for little or no money.

Migration Solutions’ award winning Environmental Report and Assessment (ERA) has shown companies, government bodies and educational establishments how savings can be achieved without spending a fortune on changing the whole of the IT estate.

Simple steps can be taken immediately, and recommendations made on a future strategy to improve efficiency when a refurbishment is due, or when fitting out a new computer room or data centre facility.

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 www.migrationsolutions.com.