July 5, 2012

10 Steps to Prepare Your Data Center for the Zombie Apocalypse

Is your data center ready for the coming zombie apocalypse? Data center designers generally do a good job preparing for conventional risks, like earthquakes, fires, floods and hurricanes, but if your disaster recovery plan doesn’t include provisions for dealing with the undead, your risk mitigation strategy has a gaping hole. Data centers are a natural refuge from zombie hoards, but only if you prepare in advance.

Unlike conventional disaster recovery (DR)/business continuity planning (BCP), zombie preparedness has a unique set of goals beyond data protection and business resumption. RPO/RTO goals go out the window when there’s a geek chewing on your skull. I generally recommend hiring a zombie specialist to develop your zombie survival plan (ZSP) but there are steps you can take on your own.

Start with establishing the goals for your ZSP. For most organizations, ZSP goals will fall into 5 categories

  1. Containment – Keep the zombies out
  2. Endurance – Stay alive until the zombies are gone
  3. Sustenance – Don’t go hungry
  4. Eradication – Kill every zombie you find
  5. Repopulation – Breed new humans for the continuation of the race

A good ZSP is measurable and testable. Data centers are used to measuring availability and power usage effectiveness (PUE). Your ZSP needs a similar metrics program. A best practice is to assign weighted values to your ZSP goals, measure them quarterly, and report to executive management on your composite zombie protection effectiveness (ZPE) score. (read more…)

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January 23, 2012

10 Questions To Ask Your Next Data Center

Choosing a data center is a big decision for most companies. Your IT infrastructure represents a critical asset for your company, and unless you are an uber-dot com company like Google or Facebook (which spread their gear around the country in tens of locations), you probably only have one or two data centers. Changing data centers is expensive and time consuming, so choosing the right data center partner is incredibly important.

Unfortunately, data centers don’t make it easy on you to differentiate between them. Everyone says they are “secure,” “highly available,” and “high density.” They all show you their generator farms, their battery rooms, and their security vestibules with bullet proof glass. Tour any three data centers and you’ll be left scratching your head trying to figure out what the difference is. As a result, many people end up using price and proximity as the primary decision points. Or even worse, they look at non-material amenities like free sodas and xboxes in the break room as the deciding factor.

There are critical differences, however, between data centers. Failing to recognize them can cost you more in the long run than any savings you might glean by choosing the low-cost provider. Having purchased services from a multitude of data centers over the last two decades, and having dealt with even more as an IT consultant, I’ve learned to recognize some of the hard to spot differences that can make or break a long term data center relationship. For simplicity (so you can copy/paste into your next RFP), I’ve listed the 10 questions you should ask your next data center below. A detailed explanation of each question follows, so you know what you should look for. I hope you find this list informative.


10 questions to ask your next data center provider

  1. Which components of the data center facility are both fault tolerant and concurrently maintainable?
  2. How are cooling zones provisioned to maintain operating temperatures during maintenance or failures of CRAC/CRAH units?
  3. What are the average and maximum power densities of the facility on a watts/sq’ and watts/cabinet basis?
  4. How often does the data center load test its generators?
  5. What are the highest risk natural disasters for the area, and what has the data center done to mitigate their impact?
  6. What are the minimum skill sets of the remote hands and eyes staff?
  7. Does the data center maintain multiple redundant sources of fuel and water?
  8. What certifications has the data center earned, and do they undergo annual audits to maintain them?
  9. How does the data center track SLA compliance, and what is their historical track record? Can they provide their last 5 failure reports?
  10. What is the profile of their top 5 clients, and what percentage of total revenue for the facility do they represent? (read more…)
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