Can Server Closets be an Asset and not a Problem?
Modern data centres are extremely well designed and managed facilities, where very careful attention is paid to maximising the reliability of the IT equipment they house by providing the best infrastructure and support systems. Years of experience and a huge accumulation of research have meant they are efficient and physically secure, equipped with the best physical management, fire protection and cooling systems available.
However, at the other end of the scale, very many organisations operate server rooms and server closets that are the opposite of well thought out and efficient. They tend to ‘develop’ in small corners or other spaces, and then more and more equipment is added over time leading to a mess of servers, patches, UPS’s and enclosures and cabling that are inefficient, unreliable and a big problem to manage and maintain. Often the building they are in has physical limitations on where they can be put, and in the case of old and leased buildings, the landlord or legal requirements may also be a factor in their development. Because they are not planned, the demands made of them change and increase in unpredictable jumps, the issues of security, reliability, ease of maintenance and repair, health and safety, fire risks and cooling are not planned for either.
So why do organisations have these office server rooms and closets? They are there for two main reasons:
- They are legacy items, they have always been there and no-one has ever looked at why they are there, or how they can be removed and their function replaced by using the cloud;
- They are critical to the function of the organisation because they offer advantages over solely using the cloud for all of its IT functions. These advantages include data security and preventing the effects of bandwidth restrictions and the associated latency when large amounts of real-time processing are attempted on the cloud. With the rise of the Internet of Things and the increasing use of AI and 5G technology, these reasons for using on-site server closets or rooms will also increase, – ‘Edge’ computing is becoming much more widely used.
The result of using badly planned infrastructure is that instead of being an asset to the business, the server rooms or closets become a drain on management and labour, and actually build in problems and inefficiencies into the organisation’s IT systems.
Ideally, the answer to the problem is to consider the current and future requirements in the organisation for IT and plan and build all the infrastructure accordingly from scratch. In reality, this is very difficult and few organisations have the luxury of the time, space and money to do this, and the future requirements are at best vague, at the worst unknown.
However, by starting with the enclosures on site that the IT systems are housed in, it is possible to turn the server closet into an asset. Make sure they allow the equipment to be physically secure, allow for good cable management and maintenance access, are flexible enough for foreseeable future requirements, and offer any extra functions needed such as integrated rack cooling and fire suppression. By doing this, an organisation can get the most out of its IT functions, utilise its physical spaces better, reduce problems with reliability and save time and money.