10 Hidden Costs of New-Generation Data Center Operations

 
 
By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2012-03-19
 
 
 

Cost No. 1: Capex

Your networking and operations programs could be costing you capital expenses. It can be argued that a lower- or multitier-level design to optimize network traffic can be supplemented with a pristine operations program to achieve the reliability of a Tier III or Tier IV data center; that's money saved before you even have an operating budget to spend. But the right operations program can do more than that. It could save you from investing capital in a new build before you even need it. 

Cost No. 1: Capex

Cost No. 2: Network and Physical Plant Stagnation

Do your networking and physical operations programs have a culture of innovation or stagnation? If you're not moving forward, you're falling behind. In this case, falling behind means that you're also losing money as well as losing your competitive advantage. Consolidation of networking equipment (switches, routers) into smaller and more efficient forms—such as converged server/networking appliances, as provided by companies such as Cisco Systems and Hewlett-Packard—are gaining traction, and awareness of such advances is important in this regard.

Cost No. 2: Network and Physical Plant Stagnation

Cost No. 3: Delayed Benchmarking

Almost all energy-efficiency projects you implement will be costly up-front. Even if you're certain a project will save you money, you must have a baseline in place to prove ROI and secure funds for the project. Not only does benchmarking provide a way to measure savings, it allows you to make sound decisions backed by data that won't affect reliability and availability. This is why you need to establish an energy-usage and energy-efficiency baseline. Having a year's worth of data is ideal to account for seasonal cost power consumption.

Cost No. 3: Delayed Benchmarking

Cost No. 4: Knowledge Walk

What happens if your networking and operations MVPs get injured, retire or leave the company? Does their knowledge of the facility "walk out the door" with them? In a formal training program, you've got the best people being constantly trained, drilled and tested to perform better. This does two things: It retains good employees by keeping them motivated and giving them a career path, and it reduces the risk of human error by putting the classroom into practice so the right actions are second nature.

Cost No. 4: Knowledge Walk

Cost No. 5: Corrective Networking Maintenance

As you know, it is far cheaper to change the oil in your car (preventative maintenance) than to fix a blown engine (corrective maintenance). The same goes for preventative maintenance in a data center. Did you know that 30 percent of all preventative maintenance activities go unperformed? Considering that in a 50,000-square-foot data center it's typical to see 800 preventative and 500 corrective maintenance activities take place per quarter, it's easy to see how preventive maintenance gets neglected. You can help combat the time loss, save money and improve reliability by using workflow automation and document management software, such as a CMMS (computerized maintenance management system) and DMS (document management system).

Cost No. 5: Corrective Networking Maintenance

Cost No. 6: Ignoring Predictive Data

What good is data that you don't use? While collecting data is important, the data must be useful to justify the process. Benchmarking your resource usage, like power and water, can help you identify areas for greater efficiency. The concept also applies to maintenance. Similar to preventative maintenance, predictive maintenance uses your past experiences and data to identify weak points and correct them before they become costly problems.

Cost No. 6: Ignoring Predictive Data

Cost No. 7: Vendor Maintenance

Could you be self-performing preventive maintenance or renegotiating third-party contracts? By now, you see there are many ways to lower operating costs through your maintenance practices. Two other ways to lower costs are by performing preventive/predictive maintenance in house and renegotiated third-party contracts. Testing for potential networking bottlenecks is always a good practice.

Cost No. 7: Vendor Maintenance

Cost No. 8: Airflow and Set Points

All right, so you benchmarked. Now what? Once you have benchmarked your energy usage and other data points, you can begin implementing some free or low-cost efficiency improvements, such as airflow management; fine-tuning the air delivery system (sealing floor penetrations, proper placement of perforated tiles and the use of blanking plates); optimizing DC configurations and set points and various settings on equipment; and deploying efficient power system components.

Cost No. 8: Airflow and Set Points

Cost No. 9: Its Not Only Energy

While energy efficiency is a hot topic and a huge area for operational savings, don't forget there are other means to cost savings, such as reducing water consumption in evaporative cooling systems; reducing chemicals used for water treatment with alternative treatment systems and careful treatment program management; using condition-based maintenance practices to reduce unnecessary maintenance events; and  if you're building, consider the impact your facility design has on operations. Consider reusing or repurposing materials.

Cost No. 9: Its Not Only Energy

Cost No. 10: Focus on Safety

A focus and commitment to safety is a worthwhile pursuit in order to ensure the health and welfare of the personnel in your facility, but it also provides reduced insurance costs; reduces lost work time; and avoids equipment damage and costly downtime. Safety violations not only result in personal injury, but can cause serious damage to the facility infrastructure. A major arc-flash incident can cost millions in equipment replacement and cause extended outages while repairs are made, in some cases lasting weeks. Effective safety programs require an investment of time and money for training and protective equipment but pay large dividends in cost avoidance and employee well being.

Cost No. 10: Focus on Safety

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