The most important elements necessary for data protection and availability are basics such as electricity and cooling.
The modern data centre is a hotbed of advanced technology, and so it may come as a surprise that the most important elements necessary for data protection and availability are infrastructural basics such as electricity and cooling.
That is according to Mike Sewell, group executive: outsourcing at Business Connexion, who says that backing up the power supply to airconditioning systems is as important as backing up computers and storage facilities.
Mike Sewell, group executive: outsourcing at Business Connexion
"Heat is probably one of the biggest challenges faced by IT managers today. Uninterruptible power supply (UPS) and generator systems that are in place to keep critical devices running in the event of power failures, have, on occasion, had to be powered down to prevent overheating as a result of insufficient power for the airconditioning systems."
Sewell says that an outsourced data centre that is built to an adequate specification, such as the American Uptime Institute's Tier 4 specification, is a good option for businesses that need service continuity but are not aware of all the possibilities associated with power failures or other disruptions.
Data centres can generally be categorised in accordance with provisions from the Uptime Institute; an organisation that defines best practices and ratings of data centres based on the capability of the facility to withstand certain situations. The lowest rating, Tier 1, is also the least costly. Tier 4, which is a purpose built structure and features full redundancy of all systems, including electrical, airconditioning, networking and even key personnel, together with the highest levels of physical and logical (data) security, is far more costly.
"It is the business of an outsourcer to ensure availability of business systems, even in the face of uncertainties such as the availability of electrical power and water. Hence, a facility designed according to Tier 4 requirements, such as the one Business Connexion recently opened in Midrand, is equipped to handle all eventualities, particularly those from a power and water reliability aspect."
While electricity problems may appear to be a problem confined to South Africa, this is simply not true. Around the world, there is increased concern about the enormous electricity requirements of corporate data centres. Sewell explains that this concern is behind the concept of the 'green' data centre.
"With ever increasing power consumption and the resulting generation of heat a major concern of data centres around the world, the concept of the 'green' data centre is gaining currency," he says.
The green data centre is defined as one in which mechanical, lighting, electrical and computer systems are designed for maximum energy efficiency and minimum environmental impact.
Business Connexion's data centres are prepared for the increasing power consumption and heat dissipation of the technology in the ICT equipment they use. "The makers of the technology elements responsible for this power consumption are focusing their efforts on producing more efficient technologies as well as establishing best practices which users [data centre operators] can apply," he says, pointing to the recent affiliation of American Power Conversion, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Sun Microsystems and VMware to the Green Grid Alliance.
Sewell adds that outsourced data centres can provide a more reliable service in the face of power uncertainty. "The concept of economies of scale applies to data centres in terms of heating, ventilation and airconditioning (HVAC) just as it does in terms of sharing infrastructure across clients. Given the issues which we have seen with power, I believe more organisations will look to outsource elements of critical infrastructure to ensure availability."
Sewell says that Business Connexion's new hosting services for all in-scope data centre equipment, which includes related peripherals, as well as physical security, cooling and electricity, and general building management, allows the client to manage the running of the equipment while Business Connexion houses it.
"Our hosting service is an alternative to the fully managed data centre service that most of our clients require, and is attractive to those clients who wish to manage their own equipment in a high availability environment without having to incur the considerable investment in establishing such a facility," he concludes.