Data centers hit their stride

The data center is the nucleus of some 99 percent or more of the businesses out there. Central stations and calls centers and proprietary monitoring facilities are mini- or full-blown data centers in their own rights as information, security and vital data jumps on the network.

Data centers continue to grow in size and capacity, but recent trends point to a greening of these entities, with a focus on a smaller footprint, less power consumption, thermal management and more. Now, the emphasis is on making these entities more cost effective and efficient. Rapid change and the stress of high-density IT equipment can exact its toll on these cost centers. Migration paths and future proofing becomes critical in the move to reduced total cost of ownership.

One of the new buzzwords is virtualization and cloud computing, which may lessen the load on the data center and reduce its carbon footprint.

Security and data centers

There's a security side to data centers, besides information security. Security cameras are increasingly used to secure data centers and other changes are being made to tighten these facilities and protect their assets. SD&I magazine asked Karl Griffith, director, Enterprise Market for Graybar in St. Louis, for his take on the security side of data centers.

1. How are surveillance cameras being used in data centers?

"Physical security is important to the data center. Nearly every business has a data center. Data centers house the mission-critical data and technology services of businesses. Therefore, companies as well as the operators of data centers will go to great lengths to ensure their facilities are protected.

Cameras are typically used throughout a data center. Day/night and infrared cameras monitor the perimeter of a data center to help protect the entire building and all property entrances and exits. Inside the data center, the lobby and/or reception areas are also typically monitored by cameras. Identification is verified and pictures are stored in databases for future use if needed.

Also, cameras monitor all data center equipment including rows of servers, data storage and communications equipment. Some data centers are co-location facilities where multiple businesses house their data processing equipment in the same facility and share infrastructure. In these cases, tenants will monitor their own equipment remotely in addition to the cameras of the data center property owner and service provider."

2. What other security is in place in data centers?

"Access control is also critical in the data center. Most data centers employ smart proximity cards combined with a biometric component as well as hand geometry readers, fingerprint readers, eye scanners or various types of facial scanning. Large gates and guard huts are also in use. In many government-owned facilities or co-location data centers with government tenants, you will typically encounter armed guards. Various methods of perimeter security are also in use. Popular ones include buried fiber optic cable sensing, infrared, laser and fence vibration detection systems. Many times mission critical cabinets are equipped with individual access control systems to record and verify use.

Sometimes the least glamorous parts of the data center are the most critical for security monitoring and alarms. Power delivery systems from utility companies provide the power to keep the data center running. If the power goes out, the backup usually consists of large generators and diesel fuel tanks on the data center site. It is imperative these power systems are not compromised--if the power goes out, there goes the mission critical data."

3. How have UPS' changed to address new components and efficiencies and more?

"Cameras with on-board storage cards can be very important to a data center. Just imagine if there was a fire or explosion in a data center power delivery area. Yes this can happen. The camera is blown off the wall or ceiling along with its power source cable. The camera stops working, but the owner can review the stored video data to see exactly what happened moments before the explosion.

Infrared cameras can also be useful in the power delivery areas of the data center. These cameras can detect hot spots in electrical distribution equipment and can possibly locate problem areas before a fault occurs. In this case you are not looking at people, but sensing changes in equipment temperature.

Video managed services

The biggest upcoming trend in data centers is video managed services. Video information for a company may not always be stored locally, but rather in a data center offering digital video storage and processing remotely. Imagine video servers and video storage in a third party's data center and these services are provided for a nominal fee. This is a form of virtualization as servers and storage are consolidated for multiple buildings, locations or numerous clients. These remote services are the future of IP video surveillance. The services are referred to as cloud computing or software as a service (SaaS)."

What's the buzz?

The emphasis on storage of video has reached a crescendo and it's not expected to stop there. Here are some of the buzzwords and trends you'll continue to hear about.

Maximizing the cabling life cycle-Cabling manufacturers will continue to put the emphasis on training integrators to select the proper cabling with an extended life cycle or planning for the future first and foremost. Longevity of the deployed solutions is important, especially when considering the costs and impact on the environment of producing new cabling when the old infrastructure has to be ripped out.

Data center cooling issues-The emphasis is on improved pathway airflow and trying to do without adding servers-an important consideration in the move to virtualization as well. Thermal management and power efficiency is also critical, as well as saving space through optimum density techniques.

Taking the fear out of the equation
By Lee Caswell

It is safe to say the term virtualization is not commonly used in the physical security industry. But that is about to change as this process offers many benefits to the integration community and end users alike.
First, what is virtualization? It can be defined as a method of making a physical entity act as multiple, independent logical entities.

Sound a little scary? Of course, it does. The use of virtualization in video surveillance is new. It conjures up visions of IT applications light years away from the world of video surveillance cameras, DVRs and access control.

But the use of virtualization in the security market shouldn't be met with fear or confusion. Rather than associating it with complexity, let's simply think of it as replacing hardware.

For example, think of your car's anti-lock braking system, a safety system that prevents the wheels on your car from locking up. This computerized all-wheel solution enables braking power to be applied to all four wheels at one time, saving the driver from having to apply braking power to these wheels separately. This approach also reduces the amount of hardware, as separate braking systems do not have to be placed on each wheel, equaling into significant cost reduction. Think of the effort this also saves because there is no need for four brake pedals!

In the surveillance market, virtualization can be used to reduce hardware investment and increase availability in high-capacity environments. In most surveillance projects, video storage and servers account for 50 percent of the acquisition and ongoing maintenance costs of a high-capacity system. Compromises are often made with retention times, video resolution or camera counts in an attempt to meet budget.

When applying virtualization to the world of video storage, virtual servers can reside on storage appliances. With this unique 'serverless computing' approach, customers can eliminate standalone servers and reduce rack space, power, cooling and cost while meeting the reliability, performance and management needs of today's surveillance systems.

So how much is saved with this approach? Approximately 25 percent in cost savings, 40 percent in power and cooling savings, 40 percent in rack space savings and lower support costs. All of this adds up to a substantial reduction in investment, which is certainly nothing to fear. - Lee Caswell is founder and chief marketing officer, Pivot3, Palo Alto, Calif.