IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Avoiding the 'Spork' Mentality in Data Center Management and Planning

Don't get stuck in the the "one tool can do it all" pitch for managing a data center. Find out how these simple tips can ease your data center planning woes. By Geoffrey Oldmixon

Schneider Electric's Kevin Brown offered up countless pearls of data center wisdom last month at the company’s annual editor’s event, but few resonate as well as “avoid the ‘spork’ mentality.” Brown, Schneider’s vice president, global data center offer, told the crowd at the Renaissance Chicago O’Hare hotel in Chicago that despite ongoing changes in technology, data center strategies are much the same as they have been in past years. These strategies encompass density, speed, flexibility, efficiency, or availability topics, he says.

Too often Brown sees midmarket companies trying to manage those familiar topics using a single tool. He calls this the “spork” mentality. Organizations are increasingly enticed by the novelty of the data center spork, Brown explains. They want to manage the various aspects of their data centers from a single tool, and they believe developers when their products are billed as, well, sporks.

“It’s a fork; it’s a spoon. It does it all,” mocks Brown, pointing out that this type of tool is never as it appears. “There are so many systems out there, and the idea that you’ll get one tool that does it all is probably a stretch,” he says. So what is a more compelling strategy for data center management? Brown and other experts at Schneider say it’s all about the prebuild process, and offer these tips:

Include facilities. “It’s not just about the products,” Brown says. “It’s also about planning and design. Most data centers lack sophisticated business processes to manage the data center appropriately.” From the water pumps to the ventilation system, make sure that everyone (and every affected department) is on the same page, especially facilities.

Research rebates. “Utility rebates are real,” says Domenic Alcaro, Schneider Electric’s vice president of data center solutions sales. He suggests learning about the benchmarks that need to be met in order to acquire those rebates prior to designing a data center.

Use reference designs. Ask your manufacturer for reference designs (field-tested specs) to use as a starting point. “I can show you a plan for what a data center will look like,” Brown says, referring to his company’s own reference designs.

Find standard products. Through the use of standard products and methods, organizations will find that repairs and training are easier. Notes Alcaro: “Standard product is less expensive to maintain and makes it easier to get parts.”

GEOFFREY OLDMIXON is a Springfield, Mass.-based business and technology writer.

About the Author

Geoffrey Oldmixon is a freelance writer based in Western Massachusetts.

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