Data Center Physical Realities in a Software-Defined World

A company's ability to leverage software depends on efficient infrastructure.

Marcia Savage

August 1, 2017

2 Min Read
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Whether your company is in finance, managing massive amounts of capital, or is in transportation, making it easy for people to flag a ride downtown, your business increasingly depends on software and data. That’s why companies are making massive investments in Agile development, big data, and other disciplines that help them get the upper hand when it comes to digital customer engagement and analytic insight. 

However, every organization’s ability to successfully use software and data in any form -- including databases, transaction processing systems, mobile apps, and IoT networks -- depends on healthy, efficient underlying physical infrastructure. In fact, the more your business depends on software and data, the more it depends on the uninterrupted physical flow of electrons across silicon chips, spinning disks, solid-state media, and network cables made of copper or optical fiber.

The physical realities of computing thus absolutely constrain business performance in several specific ways, including:

  • Accurate delivery of the right power to the right device -- You can’t compute without power. So it’s essential to deliver the right power to every device all the time. This has become a non-trivial engineering challenge as virtualization intensifies power demands and as next-generation infrastructure such as  high-density OCP servers, converged systems, and DC-powered drives introduce greater variability into power requirements across the data center.

  • Appropriate temperatures and other environmental conditions -- Computing equipment generates a lot of heat, especially as data centers get denser. Consequently, it's essential to always apply sufficient cooling everywhere across your data center infrastructure to avoid the overheating that can cause equipment failure while also avoiding wasteful overcooling. Protecting your equipment from other threats such as excessive humidity, vibration, and airborne particulates is also critical.

  • Access for maintenance and troubleshooting -- Disks crash, fans short out, and power supplies fail. So physical equipment requires physical service. These tasks must be performed quickly and reliably by authorized technical staff so as not to excessively consume their limited time. Again, this is a non-trivial challenge given the increasing density of equipment in the data center, as well as the way the relationship between that equipment and the critical IT services it supports keep becoming more dynamic and complex.

By diligently addressing these physical realities, data center managers can better enable the organizations they serve to succeed in an increasingly tech-centric world while they continue to pursue the evolving opportunities offered by virtualization, the cloud, and software-defined IT infrastructure. 



About the Author(s)

Marcia Savage

Executive Editor, Network Computing

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