Don’t Get Left Out of the Dark:
How to Achieve a Dark Data Center
By: R.L. Fielding
Is your data center plagued by frequent problems? The source of trouble may lie more with the number of people interacting with your data center’s equipment, rather than with your data center design. Much like bacteria in a living organism, these mostly harmless interlopers can sometimes cause great damage to your data center’s “health” without even realizing it.
Think of the data center as if it were the human body. Most data center designs have a weak immune system. The facilities and equipment are vulnerable to variables introduced by human involvement. For most data centers, not only does the IT staff have access to the facility, other employees may enter the data center for a variety of reasons. As human traffic within the data center increases, so do the amount of clutter and the number of technical errors.
The presence of people creates not only a slew of health, safety, and environmental issues for your data center design, it also enables unnecessary problems to occur. Despite expert planning, people do not always follow pre-set procedures and may fiddle with equipment which they are unqualified to use. Their mistakes can be difficult to trace. Not only does this waste your time and money, it also monopolizes the efforts of your IT staff, the “antibodies” who are trying to maintain your data center’s wellbeing.
A tremendous amount of time and expense goes into performing damage control after human errors occur. Operations could improve greatly if data center designs incorporated a better “immune system.” The ideal solution is to create a dark data center, a remotely monitored IT environment, in which computer systems analyze and correct problems with minimal human involvement. This dark data center design provides increased availability to users and allows IT staff to attend to more crucial tasks.
There isn’t a magic pill which can fix your data center design. To achieve a completely dark data center, your hardware, software and networks need to be autonomous. The majority of today’s companies are no where near this point and most data centers will never be able to run without any human interaction, but technology is quickly taking us closer to this goal.
A Bright Future with Dark Data Center Design
Although cutting the human element entirely out of the picture is just beyond our current technological reach, you can reduce foot traffic and the number of unmanaged changes within your data center. “Dim” data center designs are a realistic goal for most companies. A skilled data center designing firm can provide the expertise to make your data center more efficient and as dark as possible.
As stated earlier, most data centers have little protection against human tampering. People are a difficult variable to control. If you can manage the number of people who need to access your data center, you can help to minimize network downtime. Technology now exists which can not only guard against unauthorized personnel, but can also track who has done what.
For example, on any given day, people may enter your data center to correct a system error. Each person would input a personalized access code to enter the room. To reset, restart or make any other change to a system, the person performing the operation would have to enter their access code. This data center element increases the level of accountability should something go wrong. There is a clear record of what took place and who initiated the action.
Increased security is only the start when it comes to designing a dim data center. The eventual aspiration of both designers and users should be to create a self-sustaining data center. If the computer system is largely able to manage and maintain itself, there is little motivation for people to enter the vulnerable areas of your data center to begin with. Advances in technology have made it possible for IT staff to remotely monitor and access the data center should the need arise.
The dim or dark data center approach focuses more on preventative maintenance than reactive problem solving. The most effective data center designs are secure, can independently trouble-shoot most problems, and can be managed remotely. Remote management is also a great cost-cutter. Being able to monitor and control your data center from another location means fewer mistakes are made by unqualified personnel entering the facility and fewer “house calls” are needed from your IT administrator. The self-maintaining data center design plan also allows for greater flexibility in location, which means the site can be chosen based on affordability instead of proximity to your main offices.
Dim data centers remain a sought-after solution for IT professionals and users, and an attainable goal for most companies. The long-term payoffs of increased security and control make for an efficient, little-to-no downtime data center design that will more than pay for itself. If your company aspires to have an always available, fault-tolerant, manageable and maintainable data center environment, a dim data center is an investment for a healthy future.
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R.L. Fielding Bio
R.L. Fielding has been a freelance writer for 10 years, offering her expertise and skills to a variety of major organizations in the education, pharmaceuticals and healthcare, financial services, and manufacturing industries. She lives in New Jersey with her dog and two cats and enjoys rock climbing and ornamental gardening.
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