Pat O’Brien Issue: 2010
Article no.: 9
Topic: Data centres and the global information explosion
Author: Pat O’Brien
Title: Managing Director, ADC GmbH, and President, Global Connectivity Solutions, ADC
Organisation: ADC
PDF size: 242KB

About author

Pat O’Brien is the Managing Director of ADC GmbH, Germany, the company’s headquarters for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Mr O’Brien is also the President of ADC’s Global Connectivity Solutions Business Unit. During Mr O’Brien’s 17-year career with the company, he has held a variety of positions with increasing responsibility including President and Regional Director of the Americas Region and President of the Copper and Fiber Connectivity Business Unit. Before joining ADC, Mr O’Brien served at Contel Telephone, now Verizon, in a network planning capacity. Pat O’Brien holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Iowa State University.


Article abstract

To fully develop their potential, Middle East and African nations need access to the same bandwidth-intensive applications and content used in Europe and North America. Internet traffic will quintuple between 2008 and 2013 and this growth demands extremely efficient, ‘green’, data centres. Developing nations can learn from mistakes made elsewhere in the world, to design infrastructure and select active components, to minimise their capital investment, reduce operating costs, avoid costly downtime, prepare for the future and reduce total cost of ownership.


Full Article

As nations around the world struggle with the global recession, they increasingly rely on information and communications technologies (ICT) to revive and strengthen their economies. In fact, according to the official report of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland last year, ICT can be “the foundation of a sustainable global economy”. The report also states that these technologies will enable “a digital revolution that can uplift parts of the world hitherto not reached by the agricultural and industrial revolutions”. Prior to the onset of the global downturn, many developing nations began to put in place the ICT infrastructures needed to deliver health, education and e-government services to their citizens, as well as to support business organizations, including telecoms service providers. For example, 30 nations in Sub-Saharan Africa have been working with the World Bank over the last decade to increase their ICT usage. In an on-line discussion forum last July, World Bank economist Christine Zhen-Wei Qiang said that between 2000 and 2007, total telecoms investment in the region was US$20 billion. Africa is, she said, “the fastest-growing region in the global cellular market”, with the number of mobile subscribers rising from 2 million in 2000 to over 150 million in 2007. As these and other countries continue to invest in ICT, via both public- and private-sector initiatives, to help revive and grow their individual economies, they focus on four primary ICT categories: • access or connectivity, via mobile phones, PCs, laptops and other devices; • the fixed and wireless networks that tie those access devices together; • the applications, both business and personal, that traverse those networks; and • the data centres needed to store, manage and disseminate the information generated by the three preceding categories. Data centres and development As nations liberalise their telecommunications markets, more competitors invest in networks to provide services to individuals and businesses. With the growth in networks, in the diversity of applications and of traffic volumes, more data centres will be needed, and they will assume an ever larger and important role. Consequently, governments and business organizations have an opportunity to build next-generation data centres that tackle, right from the start, many of the issues now plaguing current-generation data centres in other regions of the world. Clearly individuals in the Middle East and Africa want access to the same applications already enjoyed by many people in Europe and North America. Bandwidth-intensive multimedia content is the name of the global game, fuelled by applications such as IPTV, Internet gaming, file sharing and mobile broadband. Similarly, national and local business organizations, along with multinational companies investing and operating in the region, increasingly rely on sophisticated, high-speed communications infrastructures. In fact, according to a June 2009 report issued by RCNOS, a market research and information analysis firm based in Noida, India, the ICT market in the Middle East “has the highest growth potential in the world”. The region’s “booming industrial sector”, together with various government initiatives – including telecoms liberalisation and privatisation – are fuelling ICT industry growth. “These governments are heavily investing in the development of Internet infrastructure,” the report states, “to compete with the global Internet environment”. Major industry sectors in the Middle East and Africa include banking and finance, construction and real estate, ICT, mining; manufacturing, oil, gas and petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, tourism, and, of course, government. With their mission-critical information moving across communications infrastructures, these data-driven industries demand the same levels of security, network uptime and business continuity – based on high-performance data centres – which their counterparts around the world demand. It is no surprise that the Middle East and Africa will contribute an ever-increasing portion of the rising flood of traffic on worldwide networks. A traffic explosion The volume of Internet Protocol (IP) traffic flowing across global networks will quintuple between 2008 and 2013, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 40 per cent, according to the 2009 edition of the annual Cisco Visual Networking Index. At the same time, business IP traffic on the public Internet will grow by 31 per cent, according to the Cisco study, while enterprise IP traffic remaining within the corporate WAN will grow by 36 per cent. This enormous growth rate will demand extremely efficient data centres. As noted earlier, Western operators today are struggling to upgrade their current-generation data centres to handle these burgeoning demands. By heeding those hard- that learned lessons, operators in other nations have the opportunity to build data centres, right from the start, that: • are future-proof for at least the next 5-10 years, with the scalable bandwidth, high-speed connections and fast servers/ample storage capacity needed to accommodate the inevitable growth in data volumes; • operate in an energy-efficient, ‘green’, manner; and • integrate comprehensive solutions to address high-density connectivity and management needs, as well as power and cooling systems that support rapid growth and superior network performance. A holistic view of the data centre Deploying a new data centre is a huge undertaking, one that presents a great deal of risk. In most cases, there is only one chance to get it right. While the active components often receive the greatest attention, data-centre owners and designers are starting to recognize the importance of the physical environment for that new equipment – the power, cooling and management of the multiple cable connections required to keep the network functioning at peak performance. Historically, equipment manufacturers have helped to define the data-centre environment, playing a significant role in customer decisions regarding construction, layout, and management. That fact gives data-centre operators in the Middle East and Africa an opportunity to avoid another early mistake made by their counterparts in other countries: equipment manufacturers alone should not dictate the data centre design and management. Data centre operators have to maintain a holistic view of the network components, their connectivity and their functional operability. Such a holistic view helps to ensure uninterrupted service and continuous access, both of which are critical to the daily operation and productivity of data-centric businesses. Depending on the enterprise in question, downtime can cost anywhere from US$50,000 to more than US$6 million per hour, and 70 per cent of network downtime stems from physical-layer problems, specifically cabling faults. Operators in developing countries know they must design their data centre infrastructures for maximum redundancy, reliability and availability. Design for maximum reliability As the nations of the Middle East and Africa join other regions of the world in moving closer toward a global, online culture, their need for maximum network reliability will only increase. Satisfying that need demands an optimised data centre, one in which all components work together to ensure 1) reliable access to the data centre’s resources, and 2) the flexibility to satisfy unforeseen future requirements. Neglecting any aspect of the design is likely to leave the data centre vulnerable to very costly failure or to early obsolescence. Key design considerations include: Power – The lifeblood of the data centre, power must have adequate levels of redundancy to satisfy all access requirements. Cooling – Cooling equipment and airflow strategies are essential to ensuring data centre viability. The correct copper and fibre-based equipment satisfies port density requirements and maximizes airflow through the centre, as well as through individual cabinets. Space – Designers must adequately plan space and allocate it flexibly if the data centre is to accommodate both current and future needs. High-density cabling and connectivity solutions require less rack, floor and pathway space, thereby allowing sufficient room for flexible reconfiguration and growth. Cable Management – The ability to handle disaster recovery, upgrades and modifications is essential to optimising any data centre anywhere in the world. It starts with strategic, unified cable management, and leading data centre designers see the cabling system as a permanent and generic resource that can easily accommodate new applications and technologies. Like the electrical system, it is a highly reliable and flexible utility into which the operator can plug any new application. Designing data centres for tomorrow’s needs Developing nations, by learning from mistakes made in other regions of the world, have a unique opportunity to build the data centre of the future today. By placing as much emphasis on infrastructure design as they do on selecting the right active components, data centre operators can minimise their capital investment, reduce operating costs, avoid costly downtime, prepare for the future and reduce total cost of ownership. In achieving those goals, they can satisfy the growing range of connectivity requirements on the part of both businesses and individuals. The World Economic Forum’s annual report, citing a February 2009 study by McKinsey & Co., noted that raising broadband penetration in emerging markets to current Western European levels “could add US$300 billion to US$420 billion in GDP and create ten million to 14 million new jobs”. If, as Leonard Weaverman, dean of the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business said, ICT is “the key infrastructure” of the 21st Century, then the data centre surely is a key element of that infrastructure.