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Ask how much does a rack really cost you?

How much does it cost to run a datacentre? This is probably a question that you have asked yourself many times over, especially when your energy invoices arrive at the end of the month and you’re baffled by unexpected costs and rises in energy expenditure, Mark Gaydos investigates. 

This is not uncommon. Running a data centre is extremely complex and with so many outgoings in the shape of utilities, salary and insurance it can often seem like an uphill battle trying to balance the books whilst delivering to strict KPIs and aiming to accrue a fair profit. However, what if you could estimate the power and total cost of each rack? That way you could make the simple calculations and hey presto – no ugly surprises at the end of the month. You’re working with data, not guesses.

Using estimates from Pitt Turner at the Uptime Institute (Paper ID#TUI1808) we can estimate the cost of a rack-unit of a 20,000 ft2 data centre. First, consider that the structure is a tier II facility, with fairly low-density racks and a burden per-rack consumption of floor space of 27ft2. This would roughly yield 740 racks per space with each rack housing 25 devices or so, which means a total floor space containing 18,500 devices.

The Uptime Institute estimates that the cost to build such a tier II facility would be approximately £140 per square foot of space and £7,670 per kW for the electricity. At a desired capacity of 1.5MW of UPS for IT hardware, this gives us nearly £14,500,000 to create the space and power needed for our facility to house 740 racks containing a total of 18,500 devices. Finally, dividing our £14,500,000 by 18,500 brings us to our grand total of £790. That means a rack for a tier II facility costs £790.

Of course, this calculation is not bespoke and could fluctuate for everyone, but it’s a very good benchmark for you to estimate the size of costs you should be expecting each month.

Now, ask yourself, are all my racks optimised and being used to maximum efficiency? If the answer is yes, then no need to read any further, but if the answer is no, or if you’re not 100% positive because you have the data to back it up, then you are costing yourself, your stakeholders, and ultimately your bottom line, considerable revenue.

Conservative estimates place nearly 13 – 23 per cent of racks resting idly in place in datacentres across the globe, and with an educated guess of 20% of the devices in that rack resting idle, you can realise roughly £3,500 per rack in cost savings with some simple changes. And this adds to further savings that could be made from power wastage and floorspace as well as the savings from the use of higher power density devices.

So, getting to know your racks is helpful when estimating costs for the end of the month, especially in the type of facility that sees considerable daily peaks and troughs due to variable client usage.

However, it is not just important for cost projection but cost savings too. Having the ability to see into every device in every rack will give you the power to see how utilised each device and rack is – and from that you can make the decision to switch up where data is stored and shut down any number of devices at all if that helps you make more efficient and effective service decisions.

Instead of measuring after the fact, there’s a type of solution that makes the monitoring a very user-friendly tool in the data centre operator’s handbook. Data centre infrastructure management (DCIM) can give a single pane of glass view over the entire estate and help not only manage your racks but all your incomings and outgoings based on the data points captured by the activity across every data centre asset, allowing you to make decisions based on facts and thereby optimise the entire facility, removing costs and risks alike.

With DCIM, datacentre management becomes more about tactical deployment than react and respond tactics, which in the long run will not only save money and increase efficiency – but make your life easier as the person responsible for demanding service users and maintaining profitability.

The author

Mark Gaydos is chief marketing officer for Nlyte Software, a leading data centre infrastructure management (DCIM) solution provider for seamlessly automating data centre operations and infrastructure into an enterprise’s IT ecosystem.

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