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Written By Robert Camp

Organic Growth: Why it's good for your business

May 06, 2011 | business

Organic growth of your business is always good, but it can come with some problems down the road with your tech infrastructure.  Hitcents started out with modest server capacity in a room that used to be a bank vault.  The bank vault was secure, but the space is very rigid (difficult to modify). 

Below is a picture of the first major hardware installation in progress from back in 2003.  At the time, there was plenty of room and servers were much shorter than they are now. 

Getting behind the servers to maintain them was easy, and due to the relative low power and low density of hardware, cooling was not much of an issue.  As time went on and capacity needed to increase, these properties changed.  Rack mount server sizes have elongated over the years which pushed the back of the servers, which were in a rack bolted to the floor, to within 6 inches of the wall.  Working on the servers was not easy any more.  As more and more servers where added (nearly filling 3 racks) cooling and power became an issue as well.  Early on, we acquired a mobile air conditioning unit.  However, this was a bad solution.  As a result, we moved to a commercial air conditioning unit to cool the well-insulated room.  

Until last week, we had just continued working with what we had, and this growth led the server room to look like this (see below).  It’s was functional, but the picture below illustrates how difficult it was working with the back of the servers.  Additionally, the heat the servers gave off was getting dangerously close to overpowering our high output air conditioning unit.  There was little we would be able to do about that leaving the server room the same.  We decided it was time to redo the entire server room.  Backup provisions where put in place at midnight on a Monday night, and we started restructuring everything.

You could see the masses of cables we had built up over the years.  At this point, it got a little eerie in the room because it was unusually quiet without the constant hum of 50 case fans.  We were now very close to a blank slate for our new server room.  Here are the advantages we were looking to gain when we put it back together.

  • A four post rack was important for maintenance of the hardware because it allows for easy maintenance and greater physical security.
  • The racks are on casters, so repositioning the racks as necessary is easy.
  • All the wiring will be redone and fitted to the length of the run for neatness and ease of tracking connections
  • All networking gear was moved to the back rails of the rack for neatness (cables don’t have to run from back of servers to front of rack).
  • All legacy hardware that was previously impossible to remove from the rack due to wires in the way where removed to free up space and reduce overall cooling needs.

You can see below the initial results of the change.  It’s much cleaner and we also reaped the following benefits.  

  • The server room, running all the same services as before, now runs about 5 degrees cooler than before.
  • We condensed our rack space utilization from two and a half total racks to about 1.5 racks.  This was possible because of our switch to a virtualized server infrastructure, which I have explained in more detail in a previous blog entry.
  • Cabling is now manageable and servers are on rails making their hardware easily accessible for maintenance.

The final picture is of the nearly completed server room project.

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