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Best practices for data center network optimization

Data center network optimization can improve business impact and promote long-term equipment health. Look to pilot new equipment, consolidate servers and improve energy efficiency.

Optimization programs are designed to make the most out of existing systems, cut costs and find opportunities to become more efficient. IT teams and businesses are looking to optimize their systems and products, find every inefficiency possible, reduce costs and achieve their business goals more efficiently.

The data center is no different. Facility owners may deploy server consolidation and virtualization programs, closely monitor their power usage and invest in resources that do the same work more efficiently than previous versions.

Optimized data centers should meet regulatory requirements, deliver streamlined business applications, reduce tech spending and increase flexibility overall. With efficient data management and effective IT infrastructure deployments in the data center, organizations can gain business agility in ways that better aid their customers to succeed in today's global market.

Why data center optimization is essential

Data center optimization is a vital practice for facility owners and customers as it can significantly affect operations, costs and resources. There are a variety of benefits to optimizing a data center:

  • Power consumption. Optimizing data centers decreases data center power consumption, increases efficiency and reduces downtime.
  • Mechanical capacity. Optimization increases the mechanical capacity of the facility so HVAC systems and other mechanical systems work more efficiently. It also adds redundancy as more backup systems are available if needed. Optimizing capacity usage means facilities could bring in more customers and increase revenues.
  • Prolonging equipment life span. Optimization reduces the strain on IT equipment because it is being used more efficiently and running within tolerance limits. Owners save money on unplanned maintenance expenses.
  • Becoming more climate-friendly. Data centers are often seen as a necessary evil for today's digital society due to their power consumption and HVAC usage. They account for 1.8% of electricity use in the U.S. and are responsible for 0.5% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Optimization programs can help reduce this footprint and create a more sustainable future.

Common data center networking practices

Data centers have already started on the path to more optimization strategies by following the latest industry trends. Virtualization, containerization, storage unification and modern cooling systems, such as liquid and direct-to-chip cooling, play a big part in today's modern data center networking practices.

Facility owners also use data center infrastructure management to gain insight into their equipment's lifecycle so they can prepare replacements and upgrades to existing infrastructure. Some are even vetting and integrating tested, pre-owned equipment before buying brand-new equipment. Pay closer attention to power usage effectiveness and other relevant metrics to monitor performance and make necessary changes.

Optimizing a data center's networking hardware

Server consolidation is one of the easiest ways to optimize a data center. As businesses and services change and expand, some servers may not be fully used, resulting in higher costs on unused bandwidth and resources than are needed. Consolidating the physical equipment reduces the number of servers needed and makes it easier for facility owners to accommodate dynamically changing technology requirements for their customers.

Monitor power usage

Monitoring the power infrastructure can identify assets using power inefficiently and identify potentially unused assets to be removed. Smart power distribution units can also help regulate the power flow dynamically based on usage changes. Uninterruptible power supply systems can decrease downtime due to power loss and other outages, while teams investigate and remediate the situation.

Be mindful of cabling

While many facility owners and customers pay close attention to their hardware and software quality, many fail to realize the importance of high-quality cabling.

It's not enough to simply count the number of connections required by each asset or service and assume that providing the relevant number of cables will suffice. The topology should dictate which cables to use and how to install them in each area. This is especially important for edge computing, where low latency is a must. Data center managers and admins should take advantage of advances in cabling and networking, such as optical transceivers and high-speed breakout cables.

Ethernet connections are another area that many facility owners may not be aware of. Data center interconnect Ethernet cable speeds have increased significantly in the last few years, going from 100 Gbps to 400 Gbps and beyond.

Use software-defined networking

Some data centers have started using software-defined networking programs to move server bandwidth away from infrastructure processing units. However, that comes with an additional load cost. Using lower-quality or low-capacity Ethernet cables reduces owners' ability to use these additional services.

Software optimizations for data center networks

Software changes are another way data center networks can be optimized effectively. They identify bottlenecks, find areas for improvement and potentially even make the changes automatically through AI and machine learning.

Hyperscale networks are another way to optimize a data center using cost-effective, stripped-down hardware designs for dedicated uses. They optimize compute-intensive storage capabilities through software to make activities like caching, data encryption and intelligent tiering more efficient.

A service-oriented architecture (SOA) can make application components reusable and interchangeable between the systems and hardware they support. SOA increases the number of connections between applications and systems, requiring higher-bandwidth capacity limits, better cabling and connection management. This is attainable if these considerations are built into any data center design strategy.

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