Tag Archives: datacenter

Data Center Support Go Bag

The number of data centers we have a presence in has increased quickly. While we used to have a few close by, we now have many in disparate locations. This makes support much harder. Not just a bit harder but exponentially. We go there infrequently and not every place has the same equipment.  It wasn’t long before equipment from our regular data centers started going missing. A screwdriver here, a label maker there, and the items were never returned.

In order to stop this I created a Colo Go Bag. In this bag should be every conceivable piece of equipment a System Administrator could need.

Off the top of my head here are its contents:

label maker
cat5e cables in various lengths
cisco console cable
APC console cable
USB to Serial dongle
screwdrivers (long and flexible philips head)
laptop with power cord (dual boot windows 7 and ubuntu 9.10)
extra batteries for label maker
spare cartridge for label maker
packing tape
box cutter
scissors
sharpie marker
zip ties
pens
spare hard drive ( of the most command size and interface)
crossover cable

Am I missing anything esstential?

Datacenters in Iceland

Slashdot.org recently had a post about Iceland getting seed money to start a datacenter initiative. And while you might think that Iceland would be a great place for datacenter due to its cheap power and cold temperatures, it is not that simple.

Previous Article: Iceland Woes Data Centers as Power Costs Soar

New Article: Iceland’s Data Center Push Finally Gets Traction

Powering a server takes electricity and for every watt used to crunch numbers more has to be used for cooling. So the total power used to run a server is actually equal to the energy to power it and the energy to cool it. While this can be a significant reoccurring cost, it does not equal the upfront cost of purchasing the equipment. The total power cost for the lifetime of a server is somewhere around 30% of its purchase price. Don’t quote me on those numbers, they are just ballpark. But they give you an idea that total power costs are not as much as you would think. Although with that said, power consumption by datacenters doubled from 2000-2006. That is why everyone is looking for a way to make them cheaper to run. But why Iceland?

Points on Power:
Iceland is a ready source of cheap power. The Icelandic Ministry of Energy & Commerce puts the nations peak power at around 60 TWh a year. That is a lot of power, but is it cheap. They also state that only around 10% of that is harnessed. That means they will need to increase their power infrastructure drastically to get to that big 60 figure. Infrastructure is never cheap. So while they might have the power to harness, it isn’t cheap, because it doesn’t exist.

Cooling
Putting something hot in a cold atmosphere makes it cold. True. But servers are not a tea kettle or pot. Outside air is not as useful for cooling servers as one would think. Particulates become an issue as does humidity. Air needs to be tempered before it is blown through servers to cool components. Too humid or too dry and it causes problems. At this point there doesn’t seem to be a simple, cheap, or easy way to harness abundant cool untempered air.

Other things to think about:
There has to be better way to use the waste heat generated by datacenters. One slashdotter brought up the possible harnessing of it for greenhouses during winter months. Not a bad idea. But by exposing the air to plants you will again have to worry about humidity and particulates.

My Conclusion
Until someone finds a simple, cheap, and easy way to temper cold outside air, the main reason to move a datacenter is cheap energy. And cheap energy seems to be as close to energy sources as possible. Be they geothermal, hydro, nuclear, coal, or solar the closer you are to the source, the cheaper the watt*hour.

For the future:
What are the best sources of power for datacenters? Geo, Hydro, Nuclear, Solar, Coal? Renewable? Non-renewable?