What is the actual cost of a rack unit?

March 3, 2015 Nlyte Software

The Cost of a Rack Unit of Data Center Infrastructure Space

The Cost of a Rack Unit of Data Center Infrastructure Space is More than You Think!


Pretty specific huh? Well, let me go through the process to get there and then you’ll see for yourself.  Is that figure the same for everyone, across all data centers? No, but the point is that you now have a ‘ballpark’ figure to think about.  Also, it should be pretty obvious that doing whatever it takes to save and/or re-user that space in a data center is a good thing and saves some amount of money. What you may not have understood is just how much of a ‘good thing’ it really is. You are probably even asking yourself right now if you have ever even really tried to quantify the Cost of a Rack-Unit of Data Center Infrastructure Space?  Most likely not, and the actual cost per rack-unit will surprise you!

Let’s do the math very quickly, using some estimates presented by Pitt Turner at the Uptime Institute (Paper ID#TUI808). Take the example of a 20,000 square foot data center. Consider it’s a Tier-2 structure, and have fairly low density racks and a burdened per-rack consumption of floor space of 27 square feet. That will yield 740 racks can be installed in a 20,000 sq ft data center. Each rack will house say 25 devices or so, which means the total floor space will contain 18,500 devices.

Uptime estimates that the cost to build that same Tier-2 facility will be approximately $220 per square foot for the space, and $11,000 per KW for the power. At a desired capacity of 1.5MW of UPS for IT gear, doing the math gives us (20,000 x 220)+(1500kw x $11000/kW) or nearly $21Million to create the space and power needed for a Tier-2 data center to house 740 racks containing a total of 18,500 devices. One last calculation, $21Million / 18,500 brings us to a total of $1135 per rack unit of space! (And if you are thinking of a Tier-IV data center, you can easily DOUBLE that figure!)

Now consider that conservative estimates of between 13% and 23% of all servers have been abandoned in place or have a utilization of less than 10%.  At $1135 per unit of space, and perhaps 20% of the 25 devices in each rack being idle, you can realize $5000 in cost savings PER RACK just by figuring out which slots can be re-used. Next time you are walking around in the data center, imagine a pile of 5000 $1 dollar bills falling out of the front of each one, which represents the cost of the wasted space in each rack. (For the sake of this posting, I am completely ignoring the ADDITIONAL savings possible by eliminating this wasted power as well as the savings possible through the use of higher density devices.)

That my friends is where Nlyte’s DCIM software comes in. We enable discipline in the data center. We determine which devices should be active and which should be removed, NOT by trying to measure their loads AFTER the fact, but instead by following good business logic, data center capacity planning and maintaining an accurate model of what is NEEDED BY THE BUSINESS. Our customers realize that installing gear should happen because the business needs it, and when the business no longer needs it, the gear should be removed. We manage the projects to get gear into and out of service quickly and efficiently. When our DCIM software is deployed, the management task changes from a tactical seek-and-destroy mission to one of planning and discipline. And at perhaps $5000 per rack to be gained by employing discipline, it is clearly fiscally defendable to do the right thing.


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