Friday, 24 July 2009

Is a wireless Data Centre possible?

Does your Data Centre look like this?

The majority of Data Centres and Computer Rooms in the UK have disorganised cabling and patching which inhibits air flow and reduces efficiency. The organic nature of a network infrastructure often starts with the best intentions and neat cabling, but develops into a sprawling mess when 'quick patches' are made and then left in position. Five years down the line and you can't see the rear of your servers!

There are so many benefits to a neatly patched facility. Connecting your servers through a patch panel allows quick organised alterations to the network while maintaining sub-floor cabling and air flows through the Data Centre. Using cable management arms inside cabinets keeps all cables neatly together and easily traceable, and allows hot air to exit quickly and unobstructed from the servers, which reduces the need for the computer fans to work as hard, reducing power usage. But could we do away with cabling all together?

Companies like WiTricity are already researching safe, wireless power transfers with the idea that in the future, you will be able to walk into a room or your office and phones, laptops and and mp3 players will start charging automatically without being connected to anything. The potential for this technology is unlimited, giving true freedom for you and your gadgets. But what about Data Centres and Computer Rooms? If the same technology was applied, power cables could be removed which would improve air flows and therefore cooling efficiency. The question remains though, would the amount of power required be able to be safely transferred to the equipment reliably? And, more importantly, being only around 40% efficient vast improvements will have to be made to make it a viable solution in a Data Centre environment.

So if wireless power is a possibility, what about wireless networking? Cisco are currently operating and improving a wireless Data Centre. Their facility uses Power over Ethernet and Wi-Fi Ethernet to create a network cable free Data Centre. They have up to 27 routers in the ceiling per meter to give excellent redundancy and bandwidth levels. This technology, along with wireless monitoring and management like the service provided by Synapsense would create a true, wireless Data Centre. Synapsense gives an on-demand picture of temperatures, humidities and pressures within a facility which could replace an expensive and often in accurate CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) test.

While CFD has its place, it lacks the ability to map each individual facilities server utilisation. This new method would allow a Data Centre Manager to fine tune a facility so that servers are always in the most efficient area. With the ability to move servers and racks around freely to optimise cooling, with the only constraint being floor grill placement, super efficient data centres could be just around the corner and they could, just possibly be wireless!

Migration Solutions is a member of The Green Grid which is focused on advancing efficiency in Data Centres. They have also recently received Information Age's award for Best Data Centre Innovation for ERA - an Environmental Report and Audit which aims to help data centre owners to save money and the environment with no or little financial outlay.

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