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Mon 1 Jan 2007 12:00 AM

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Data centre dynamics

The Datacenter Dynamics event arrived in Dubai last month, with regional end users keen to engage on some of the critical issues surrounding the subject.

The data centre is the new superstar of enterprise IT – everyone is prepared to lavish care on it, attend to its every whim, even make sure it’s not too hot. The reason for this attention is simple: an efficient and well-run data centre can mean the difference between smooth and consistent IT delivery, or downtime, disruption, equipment failure and high running costs.

In the last few years this interest has spawned the rise of a number of highprofile data centre events around the world – and one of the biggest of these touched down in Dubai for the first time last month. Datacenter Dynamics (DCD) has held events across the world, from New York to Mumbai, from Amsterdam to Sydney – Dubai was its first visit to the Middle East.

“From what we read about DCD in the invitation and then on the website, with the huge amount of information it was going to be bringing in with professional people from around the world – we were expecting to see what’s new in this field, what some of the major problems are in the field,” says Ahmad Omari, team leader for mobile network infrastructure at du, the UAE’s new telecoms provider, which is due to launch shortly.

The Dubai event carried presentations from some of the big hitters in the world of data centres, including HP, APC, Panduit, AMP Netconnect and Mayflex. The enduser keynote speech came from Rob Kane, product strategy manager at Mercator, the IT division of Emirates and one of the prime movers on Dubai’s IT scene.

Omari says: “I think the way the speakers approached the issues was very good. From the ones I attended, HP was very good, and APC was also excellent – I really enjoyed both these seminars. They talked about the problem itself – cooling, power, future planning and expansion – these issues. From there, they went to the solution, supported by what they have as products for that solution. All of them were interesting ideas, how they approached the cooling issue, or the power issue.”

The APC presentation, by Peter Hannaford, director of business development for EMEA at the vendor, focused on the issues around cooling the data centre using raised flooring. Hannaford introduced some convincing arguments for looking at cooling in a more systematic manner, mainly in the form of large cost reductions – up to 45% of energy costs – which could be achieved.

HP’s blade systems infrastructure technologist, Ken Baker, also looked at cooling issues in his breakout seminar, in addition to his keynote speech on the importance of creating an efficient data centre infrastructure in a wider context. Despite having limited acceptance here in the Middle East as a major issue, the reality of increasing CO2 emissions is starting to make itself felt among vendors – and cutting consumption in a powerhungry data centre can go a long way to reducing emissions in a business.

Other presentations touched on subjects such as service oriented network architecture (SONA), a rundown of some key security issues, both physical and data, and cabling and cabinet design issues.

“There were a lot of presentations, a lot of interesting topics, and we had three seminars running at the same time,” says Omari. “So we wanted to see several of them at the same time – but we could only see one. If there were more time for the event – say over two or three days – it would give time for everyone to see all of the topics. The seminars were good – some were very good, very useful.

The best ones did not talk just about their products – they talked about technology and what’s the latest in the business of data centres, and then what solutions they have.”

DCD’s Dubai outing attracted IT professionals from around the region, as well as some familiar faces from the UAE.

There is currently a high demand for specialist events in the region.

While events such as GITEX offer an excellent overview for the whole IT sector, many IT professionals want to see much more detailed and in-depth events such as this. Although, as du’s Omari points out, the best events are those where vendors are able to put aside their sales pitches and tackle the underlying issues around a subject.

“We wanted to look at the major issues – moreover, it’s how to plan a data centre not for today, but for tomorrow,” says Omari. “How to plan it so that after a couple of years, when new technology has come in and the business has changed, you can use that data centre to accommodate those changes. Will you have space but no power, or power but no cooling – it’s the art of designing for tomorrow.”

Du’s own data centre projects are still ongoing – with big plans postlaunch, the mobile operator is looking to make some serious investments in technology infrastructure. Omari and his team are actively looking for innovative solutions to include in their new data centres.

He explains: “I’m very much interested in the data centre business, and the problems that exist – lately I’ve been following up on all the solutions coming in. In du, we are trying our best to implement the latest standards – there are a lot of standards for data centres now, and many new ones are just draft standards. But we’re trying to use these in our data centres.

“We have data centres coming up in du, and events like this help us decide who’s going to be consulting, who’s going to be the contractor, and who’s supplying – we now know what solutions match the data centre problems. And we know who we can really trust to give our data centre projects to,” Omari adds.

The event will almost certainly return to the region, according to DCD’s Ken McNally: “We took the conference to Dubai because having grown in recent years to cover North America, Europe, India, the Far East and Australia, the Gulf was a natural addition to the series, and Dubai is an ideal location for the region. The feedback we have received has been overwhelmingly positive and, with Dubai now firmly established in our calendar, we look forward to returning next year.”

CIO cheat sheet

Hot aisle containment:

Billed as the predictable solution for an unpredictable data centre environment, hot aisle containment is being touted by major vendors such as APC. The mixing of hot and cold air streams in the data centre lowers availability of IT kit. Returning the warmest possible air to the computer room air conditioners increases the effi ciency and capacity of the system. The containment system ensures proper air distribution by separating supply and return air paths.

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