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Room to grow: Tips for data center capacity planning

Thomas A. Limoncelli, Strata R. Chalup and Christina J. Hogan | Nov. 14, 2014
Capacity planning needs to provide answers to two questions: What are you going to need to buy in the coming year? And when are you going to need to buy it?

Going deeper into these items, machines have CPUs, caches, RAM, storage and network. Connecting to the Internet requires a local network, routers, switches and a connection to at least one ISP. Going deeper still, network cards, routers, switches, cables and storage devices all have bandwidth limitations. Some appliances may have higher-end network cards that need special cabling and interfaces on the network gear. All networked devices need IP addresses. These are all resources that need to be tracked.

Taking one step back, all devices run some sort of operating system, and some run additional software. The operating systems and software may require licenses and maintenance contracts. Data and configuration information on the devices may need backing up to yet more systems. Stepping even farther back, machines need to be installed in a data center that meets their power and environment needs. The number and type of racks in the datacenter, the power and cooling capacity and the available floor space all need to be tracked. Data centers may provide additional per-machine services, such as console service. For companies that have multiple datacenters and points of presence, there may be links between those sites that also have capacity limits. These are all additional resources to track.

Outside vendors may provide some services. The contracts covering those services specify cost or capacity limits. To make sure that you have covered every possible aspect, talk to people in every department, and find out what they do and how it relates to the service. For everything that relates to the services, you need to understand what the limits are, how you can track them and how you can measure how much of the available capacity is used.

How much do you have

There is no substitute for a good up-to-date inventory database for keeping track of your assets. The inventory database should be kept up to date by making it a core component in the ordering, provisioning and decommissioning processes. An up-to-date inventory system gives you the data you need to find out how much of each resource you have. It should also be used to track the software license and maintenance contract inventory, and the contracted amount of resources that are available from third parties.

Using a limited number of standard machine configurations and having a set of standard appliances, storage systems, routers and switches makes it easier to map the number of devices to the lower-level resources, such as CPU and RAM, that they provide. Next: How much are you using now?

Terms to know

QPS: Queries per second. Usually how many web hits or API calls received per second.

Active Users: The number of users who have accessed the service in the specified timeframe.

 

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