With the emergence of new technologies and applications, data centers have only become more complex.

The adoption and integration of Internet of Things technologies, virtualization, increased security requirements, edge computing, and the cloud have led to data center infrastructure becoming more complex. A new white paper from Data Center Dynamics explains that complexity arises when products, tools, and resources are not designed to work together, instead are forced together to support a network.

“This mix-and-match approach can occur for a variety of reasons, but it often happens because today’s technology demands require data center managers to move quickly. There often appears not enough time to be practical, do things the ‘right way’ or think through long-term ramifications,” the white paper explains.

Data Center Dynamics says this approach results in IT systems that are difficult to design, install, maintain, and manage. Ultimately this causes higher capital and operating costs, slower deployment, increased potential for human error, escalating risk profiles, and potentially more downtime and scalability problems.

The white paper offers seven ways to reduce data center complexity:

  • Emphasize Standardization: While industry standards offer guidelines, the white paper says it is important to pick the right standards for each data center environment. “From there, it’s essential to use, adapt and change industry standards, even sometimes creating your own,” the white paper says.
  • Streamline Vendors: Because relying on many different vendors can increase complexity and introduce interoperability concerns, the white paper suggests working with a data center partner that offers, understands, and appreciates all components of a data center, including fiber, copper, steel, cybersecurity, and electronics, such as software, applications, and connectivity.
  • Select Products Engineered to Work Together: “Investing in products engineered to work together goes hand in hand with streamlining vendors,” the white paper explains. “It’s important to realize that, sometimes, an off-the-shelf product won’t work to meet your goals … You need to look at the solution holistically and not just at individual needs in isolation.”
  • Easy Installation and Maintenance Requirements: The white paper notes that a complex data center environment makes it more difficult to identify the root cause of errors and misconfigurations. “When there’s a complex problem, a complex fix is likely the solution,” the white paper says. “Selecting products with improved installation and maintenance features means shorter lead times, less training time for staff, and lower maintenance costs.”
  • Responding to Complexity “Seepage:” While data centers may be making strong effort to reduce complexity, Data Center Dynamics insists that that doesn’t mean complexity “won’t come creeping back in.” Rather, data centers that have made strides in reducing complexity still need to implement further best practices to ward off complexity seepage.
  • Find Products that Serve More than One Purpose: A key component of reducing complexity is finding products that work overtime. Typically, systems are built to do one specific task, and as needs change, the system is modified to do things it was never intended to do. To avoid those issues, data center operators should look for products designed to change and grow as a data center’s needs shift.
  • Aim for Seamless Scaling and Migration: Data centers need to be focused on the future and have ongoing migration plans. “Planning for migration is a key to keeping complexity under control,” the white paper says. “As you prepare for future technologies, a migration plan can help protect your assets.”
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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.