Designing a world-class cloud data center

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Designing a multimillion-dollar cloud data center from scratch—the focus of my efforts over the last year—is really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

We were running out of capacity in our enterprise data center in Westborough, MA, and after considering all of the options we decided to build a new, highly efficient virtual data center located in Durham, North Carolina.

Given that this site will be running mission critical applications that support EMC’s business throughout the globe, network connectivity as well as competitively priced power were key considerations for our location choice. The Durham facility met all of our criteria. The site’s proximity to Research Triangle Park, a major technology hub, as well as several universities and colleges producing engineering talent such as Duke, North Carolina, and Wake Technical added to its appeal.

One of the challenges to keep in mind when designing a data center like this is that it’s not just for today. The capital investment is huge, and migrating a data center takes months of planning and many more months to implement. It also has to last for the next 20 or 30 years, so making it as flexible as possible is a priority.

We were blazing a new trail. We weren’t replicating what we had; we were designing new, and incorporating cutting-edge solutions as they were introduced, and as the data center was being built. This included Vblock solutions from VCE and the EMC VPLEX family, which were not even announced when we first started designing the data center. Once you go live, as we did this past October, the trick then is to be able to continue to evolve and grow that data center over time—while you’re running those live applications.

Well underway, and slated for full operation by the end of 2012, our new data center is based on highly efficient design and construction as well as the latest virtualization and cloud technologies from our own company and that of our partners. Our goal is to make this cloud data center one of the first to achieve 100 percent virtualization.

Key aspects of our cloud data center that we have carefully worked into design and deployment include:

• Tier III design

• The flexibility to quickly and easily accommodate different power
densities and different cable requirements

• Energy initiatives for optimal efficiency, including external “free” cooling
capabilities that will allow for a PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) of 1.3 or better

• The ability to expand without causing IT application downtime

• The ability to easily integrate new products, solutions, and technology
into the infrastructure as they come along

• Advanced automation and management capabilities that allow much of
the data center to be monitored and managed remotely

• State-of-the-art virtual data center disaster recovery supported by
EMC technology

This new Durham facility provides a firm foundation for the future, and takes us further along on our journey to cloud. It is a key part of a dynamic new IT infrastructure that will enable us to flexibly and cost-effectively offer IT as a Service to all of our business units.

Our Durham cloud data center will be a world class customer showcase for EMC’s leading information infrastructure technologies and a showpiece of our EMC IT Proven program.

This is the first blog in a series that will focus on our ongoing efforts at the Durham data center.

About the Author: David Scheffler

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