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Sun's data center consolidation reduces space, servers

Sun Microsystems' new Santa Clara data center consolidation packs in four times the computing power in 62% less square footage than its old Newark, Calif., facility.

Sun Microsystems Inc. has consolidated a 200,000-square-foot data center into a new 76,000-square-foot facility; in the process, it has shut off about 5,000 old servers, network switches and storage devices.

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Sun announced the new Santa Clara, Calif., data center today, saying the consolidation has compressed 2,177 servers on 500 racks down to 1,240 servers on 65 racks. Sun said the move has reduced power consumption by 75% and increased computing power by about four times.

In a recent Gartner Inc. survey, 92% of respondents had a data center consolidation planned for, in progress or completed.

"A lot of the equipment we were replacing was older tier that had been used for a number of years, and it was near the end of service life," said Mark Monroe, Sun's director of sustainable computing. "Just the idea of a technology refresh is one of the most powerful tools in a consolidation project like this."

Data center and server consolidation have become a popular way for businesses to get more from less: less space, less power, fewer computers. According to a Gartner Inc. survey at the research firm's data center conference last year, 94% of 735 respondents said that they were either planning, in the process or had already completed a server consolidation.

The figures were similar for a physical data center consolidation: 92% were either planning, in the process or had already completed one.

Data center overhaul
For Sun, the project began last year when the company announced it was selling its Newark, Calif. campus, where the original data center was located. Considering the age of some of the facility's servers, the company decided on a major consolidation project by bringing in newer, more powerful equipment that in some cases had a much smaller footprint.

In all, it took Sun 12 months to complete the consolidation, a fairly average amount of time, according to the Gartner survey: In it, half of respondents expected that a consolidation project would take between seven and 18 months.

Monroe said that the company expected to get at least 2-to-1 compression from its server consolidation, but in some cases it was able to get as high as 5-to-1 using a combination of newer servers and virtualization. The new facility has a mix of Sun servers, from its blades to high-end E25Ks that may have as many as 72 UltraSparc chips in a single box.

As a result, the data center has a mix of raised floor and slab. Monroe said higher-end servers like the E25K require a raised floor because they need bottom-to-top airflow. In contrast, most of Sun's volume and blade servers are positioned front to back, making it possible to place them over slab or raised floor, Monroe said. The new facility has mostly overhead cabling to prevent any under-floor airflow obstructions.

Monroe said that the newer servers have more efficient power supplies included, most of which follow 80 Plus standards. The facility uses APC InfraStruXure InRow and Liebert Corp.'s XD cooling systems, which blow air but require chilled water to be piped in closer to the racks so the cooling is closer to the IT equipment.

Meanwhile, all Sun's unneeded servers will go through the company's electronic waste management program, where about 5% ends up in a landfill and the rest is recycled.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Mark Fontecchio, News Writer .

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