Cost pressure is on for local data centres

Energy-efficient hardware, converged infrastructure and better management tools are just some of the approaches South African data centres are using to reduce operational costs.

Read time 2min 50sec

Rising electricity prices, the scarcity and high cost of skills, and a tight economy are all putting South African data centres under enormous budgetary pressure. Enterprise IT users and service providers are responding with a range of strategies geared towards improving data centre efficiencies, lowering cost of ownership and improving agility.

There's currently no alternative to Eskom power for data centres, since wind and solar power are not efficient and cheap enough to power large infrastructures.

Lex Van Wyk, MD, Teraco

Take MediSwitch, the healthcare transaction switching company owned by Altron's Bytes Technology Group, for example. Facing the need to upgrade a complex heterogeneous IT environment that was nearing the end of its life cycle, the company decided to opt for an engineered solution rather than upgrade its infrastructure piecemeal.

Its cost of ownership calculations indicated that opting for an engineered solution would allow the company to achieve a cost saving of 45% over three years, says Wayne Botha, IT manager at MediSwitch. The solution it opted for was an Oracle Database Appliance, offering an integrated system of software, servers, storage, and networking, and a relationship with a single vendor.

Cost savings accrue from simpler management and administration - there's only one system to patch rather than several pieces of equipment of software from multiple vendors, for example - as well as hardware efficiencies such as lower power costs, Botha says. The solution is also scalable enough to cater for the company's growth in a pay-as-you-grow model. Oracle manages the whole stack, vastly simplifying operations for MediSwitch.

Stephen Green, an executive at Dimension Data Middle East and Africa, says he expects to see demand grow for converged systems as data centre managers look to maximise floor space and improve energy efficiencies. Converged architectures such as HP Moonshot and Nutanix's platforms collapse disparate compute and storage tiers into unified systems, lower systems complexity and improve energy efficiencies, making them attractive for data centres looking to reduce operational costs, he adds.

Rising electricity prices over the past few years pose the largest challenge South African data centre operators face, says Lex Van Wyk, MD at Teraco, one of South Africa's largest data centre providers. The company has absorbed increasing electricity prices for the past four years, but has now had to pass higher costs on to its enterprise customers, he adds.

There is currently no alternative to Eskom power for data centres, since wind and solar power are not efficient and cheap enough to power large infrastructures, says Van Wyk. That means data centres have no choice but to focus on energy efficiency of their equipment and their cooling to control their operating costs. Rising electricity costs mean that it makes more sense than ever for enterprise to take advantage of the economies of scale that large data centres can offer by outsourcing their infrastructure, Van Wyk adds.

The drive for power efficiency and tighter management of the IT infrastructure will also push IT shops towards better management and optimisation of their infrastructures using strategies such as virtualisation, says Miles Bowker, solution strategist, CA Southern Africa. Since many data centres are using only 10% to 20% of server capacity, there's scope for them to achieve significant cost savings through consolidation and virtualisation.

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