ModernDataCenterThis blog is the first installment of a six-part series discussing data center challenges and solutions.

The modern data center is a complex place. The proliferation of mobile devices, like tablets and smartphones, place an ever-increasing pressure on the IT departments and data centers. End-user and customers’ expectation levels have never been higher and the demand for data shows no sign of slowing down. Data center managers must manage all of these elements while also remaining efficient and keeping costs under control. So where does the data center go from here?

One thing I have noticed in the evolution of the modern data center is that the facilities are gaining importance; improving energy efficiency and IT management have come to the forefront. Maximizing the organization’s resources is vital, and that means delivering more to facilities and equipment without expending more on staffing. IDC forecasts that during the next two years, 25 percent of all large and mid-sized businesses will address the power and cooling facility mismatches in their data centers with new IT systems and put a 75 percent cap on data center space used. So there again is the crucial challenge of doing more and innovating while keeping budgets and spend under control.

Another key part of the next generation data center mix is automation. Today’s data center manager is engaged in sourcing the right automation tools that will help them manage energy consumption and add new technology without disrupting normal operations. These are a few of the key challenges in the modern data center – so data center managers and IT departments must find ways to address them.

Where does the data center go next?

At the heart of data center evolution is the information technology sector’s rapid rate of change. Many new products and services must be implemented with much less time to value, and data centers need to be agile enough to assess and accommodate them all. If you examine enterprise data centers, then you might observe the ways that cloud computing and hyperscale innovations are displacing traditional enterprise systems, with new paradigms pioneered by innovators like Amazon and Google. With new options being developed, enterprises now have to chart strategies for cloud computing, including public, private or hybrid cloud. Gauging where the technology will go next is difficult to tell. Will the traditional vendors, such as Cisco and EMC, prevail or will new paradigms from Nutanix or Simplivity disrupt and displace these traditional data center dominators?

The race is on to manage the rapid rate of change while also staying agile, meeting end-user expectations and managing costs. For example, data center managers must handle the level of capacity their data center requires while ensuring they don’t overspend on unused capacity. This is where the focus on data center design comes into play.

Taking the data center forward

These specific needs and challenges that the modern data center faces require working with the right tools and solutions. Modular, purpose-built data center infrastructure allows organizations to develop data center services based on need − when capacity rises and where capacity is needed. For example, we’ve observed in Singapore that most data centers operate slightly above 2.1 power usage effectiveness (PUE). This means that companies spend more on cooling their data center rather than on operating and powering the IT equipment. It is a simple challengedrive efficiency without impacting operations. You want to drive PUE down to approximately 1.06, regardless of where you need to operate, and reap huge energy savings while better serving customers.  If done right, there is a positive environmental impact.

Changing the paradigm of the traditional data center enables organizations to reap these rewards. Assessing and establishing business objectives that reflect what is possible, rather than what always has been or what is easier and more comfortable, has led to innovative services and new business models that reset the competitive standards for everyone. Better PUE is a mandatory step in this process. The PUE journey continues as evidenced by Amazon, which had recently taken to harnessing wind to power its data centers. Modular data centers will play a major part in this PUE journey, thanks to more efficient use of energy and greater flexible support for resiliency and compute density. The next generation data center is here and I’ll talk more about where I see it going in the next blog.

Do you have a question about the challenges and innovations for the modern data center? Leave a comment below and I will be sure to respond.

About the Author

James Young

James currently serves as the Director of CommScope’s Enterprise Data Center division, overseeing strategy and providing leadership to product and field teams globally. Formerly James has been involved in a variety of roles including sales, marketing and operations for communication solutions working with Tyco Electronics/AMP, Anixter, Canadian Pacific and TTS in Canada. 

James has gained extensive experience in the sale of OEM products, network solutions and value-added services through direct and indirect channel sales environments. His sales experience includes electronic transmission components, telephony systems, network systems, LAN infrastructure products and fibre transmission system products. James has garnered substantial experience in OEM and channel marketing, as well as network operations as assistant director of CP’s computers and communications group. 

James graduated with a Bachelor of Science from the University of Western Ontario.  He is a registered Communication Distribution Designer (RCDD) and certified Data Center Design Professional (CDCP).

See all posts by this author


2 comments for "The Modern Data Center – Challenges and Innovations"
Edward J Forrest, Jr Tuesday, September 27, 2016 2:27 PM

John, there are so many incumbent facets of a data center. One of the least discussed, or let's say often passed over, is the need to properly clean and inspect end face connections. No wonder, with possibly over 100,000 end faces surfaces, no one wants to think about it!!

When one does "think about cleaning" we tend to migrate to a lowest common denominator: a.) if there is a problem, clean it, b.) there is a special on a cleaning tool, buy it, c.) it's not something we worry about because we are short run or looking at new expanded beam types!

The reality is that how the connection is actually cleaned is more significant than the actual product itself. The industry gravitated to begin with a "dry process" and when that does not work, use a "wet-to-dry". Neither have sufficient process definition. The "dry process" can create a static field that attracts additional contaminants and "wet-to-dry" can flood the surfaces.

The other aspect is that it seems unlikely that each and every one of the (theoretical) fore mentioned 100,000 ens faces are actually inspected! So, there is too much "blind cleaning". In 2011 Telcordia published the most recent cleaning standard that introduced a 3rd technique that uses a small amount of fiber optic cleaner with a non-paper wiper. The result was dissipation of static as well as better removal of all types of contaminants...perhaps even without 'blind cleaning'.

It's a topic I have researched and studied for nearly 20's my technical limit regarding fiber optics...except to understand clearly that a contaminated end face will create reflectance, block the signal and in some instances actually damaged the end face. Precision cleaning isn't a's a process.

Should you have interest, please let me know.

Kind regards,

Ed Forrest
Marietta, GA. USA

James Young Monday, October 03, 2016 3:48 AM

Ed, your comments are most welcome. Cleaning and optic performance are very closely related. As time goes by DC optics are facing the same challenges that carrier networks have faced for many years. Single mode, multi mode will both require best practices to provide for the capacity and reliability that DC application will require.

We focus on overall link performance- so your experience would certainly be very helpful. While Carriers seem to have developed a disciplined cleaning practice- the DC world seems to be trying to catch up.

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