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Staying ahead in the data centre during 2023

Chris Wellfair

Chris Wellfair

Projects Director at Secure I.T. Environments
Image credit: Have a nice day Photo / Shutterstock.com

How was your 2022? It probably was not the one you expected, given we had all started to look forward to getting back to business as usual, as the UK began to unlock fully following the pandemic. 

For many, it was time to start picking up those projects that had to go on hold for a couple of years and make them happen. In the time I have spent with customers over the last year, they are doing just that. However, just like love, the course of true data centre harmony, rarely runs smoothly…!

What 2022 threw our way

There have been a number of challenges in 2022 impacting the business and personal lives of us all.  At a time when the availability of semiconductors looked as though it may start to right itself, the illegal invasion of Ukraine further disrupted supply chains, and many companies were directly impacted by the loss of key manufacturing facilities.

Energy costs too have been a big issue this year, that shows no sign of disappearing. No company or household has escaped the impact of huge increases in energy costs, also caused by the invasion and a re-orientation of the oil and gas markets. There are no signs of the market returning to its pre-2022 prices for the time being, and companies need to factor this in for the long term. 

For consumers, we are now in the period where this increase in costs will be most acutely felt, but it is the summer where we in the data centre will feel it most, trying to keep everything cool. It keeps getting hotter and 2023, looks set to be no different. In 2022, during summer we had our highest ever recorded temperature at 40.3 degrees Celsius – 1.8 degrees higher than the previous record in 2019. 

Putting the best foot forward

There are things we can take from the experience of 2022 that can set us in good stead during the year ahead. What was clear in 2022, is that some things are just out of your immediate control, and you need to deal with what is in front of you. That is something that was also clear during the pandemic – but the euphoria of getting back to business was short lived. The lesson? There will always be something that you can’t control, so be prepared.

In 2023, being prepared means being on top of all the critical areas of your data centre infrastructure, but it is easy to think that you have the maintenance schedules and other processes in place, and therefore feel secure. Thinking ahead, about the bigger picture is also key and there are a few areas you should be considering now, if you don’t want to get caught out:

  • Supply chains: There are still issues in supply chains and these are going to continue into 2023. Don’t expect to receive equipment in the same lead times that you have previously been used to. The war in Ukraine, and very strict lockdown rules, particularly in parts of Asia, mean that supply chains will continue to be disrupted while high demand persists – partly made worse by large companies trying to secure large volumes of semiconductors and other components. You should assume that any product you want is going to take at least twice as long to get to you and plan accordingly. We have seen lead times in excess of 25 weeks on some manufacturer’s products.
  • Energy consumption: Use the data you have in your EMS, BMS, intelligent PDUs and other systems to make sure that what you think is happening in the DC, is in fact really happening. The data is screaming out to help you! There may be opportunities to consolidate servers, or change environmental controls that reduces the energy demands of the data centre. This is not just about reducing costs, or the impact on climate change, but is equally important in respect of business continuity. Do you have a ‘minimum load’ configuration on which the DC can still provide critical services and is your infrastructure setup so you can quickly switch over to it, if needed.
  • UPS batteries: Batteries are in particularly short supply with long lead times, so do check their status, run a thorough maintenance check, and confirm whether they still meet the load requirements of the data centre. 
  • Condenser ambient temperature checks: The extreme temperatures we experienced in the UK last year, will come again. Perhaps we will not set a new record in 2023, but the trend is undeniably upwards. Summer temperatures are rising and periods of intense heat getting longer. All this means that the ambient temperatures are impacting the performance of your cooling infrastructure. As part of your maintenance programme in early 2023, don’t just do the basics, think about commissioning a full assessment of the performance of the system so that configuration changes can be made well ahead of the period when they are needed. Remember, new components and AC units ordered in January, may not arrive until June – getting scarily close to when they will be needed most.

As the end of the year fast approaches, you’ll probably be breathing a big sigh of relief, but 2023 has already set itself up for more of the same challenges. As data centre owners and managers, we can get ahead of these challenges, we’ve already dealt with most of them this year. The sign of success in 2023 will be learning from that experience and staying ahead of the game, so we can focus on the projects that add value for the wider business and its customers.

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