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Is it time to rethink your R&D infrastructure strategy?

I’ve been passionate about data centers for a long time. Over the last couple years, I’ve seen the space evolve and redefine itself more than in the entire previous half-century. So there’s a good chance that many businesses have legacy systems in place and haven’t taken advantage of economical advances. For example, R&D infrastructure is often an afterthought, not properly integrated into the overall data center strategy, and are therefore a source of wasted money and resources. It’s vital to step back and reconsider your overall strategy, which is why we partnered with Spiceworks to conduct comprehensive research related to the challenges of managing IT infrastructure for labs, surveying more than 150 IT professionals. This in-depth research has yielded some telling results.

Our research defined labs as “data center infrastructure for Tech Ops, research and development, and other non-production environments for application, hardware or client environment testing.” Quite simply, that means infrastructure that is not mission critical to everyday operations. In fact, our research has shown that R&D infrastructure is frequently an afterthought and not built into the overall IT strategy. Even in scenarios where critical and R&D infrastructure do coexist, these two separate entities are often operated using the same set of standards rather than employing a nuanced strategy. Applying a thoughtful strategy to these different systems will go a long way in saving money.

Research shows that there are three primary locations in which companies run their infrastructure for R&D. 62 percent of businesses house their R&D lab IT infrastructure in commercial offices. Just think of the overspending here—from the cost of higher retail rent to power and energy consumption, the latter of which accounts for approximately half of IT infrastructure cost. A shocking 50 percent of IT professionals aren’t even aware of their company’s energy rate and only about a third monitor power usage—so no wonder the potential savings are going untapped. But now we have the numbers to prove it: Off-site data center lab locations can save companies a whopping 40 percent on electricity. The average wholesale power rate is $.096 kW/h while the average retail rate is $0.15 kW/h—moving your entire R&D operation to a purpose-built wholesale environment would save you thousands of dollars very quickly.

An alternative scenario that cropped up in our research is companies that have taken the smart step of moving their R&D infrastructure to a purpose-built space with access to retail power rates. Fiscally speaking, these companies are saving money on power and commercial rent costs. But our research shows that 41 percent of businesses struggle with finding time to maintain and manage their labs—and housing the R&D component away from a company’s core IT infrastructure is akin to hiring two different landscapers to maintain your front and back yards. Why not put your R&D environment in the hands of someone who is there to devote all their time and energy to maintaining them?

Finally, if a company’s R&D infrastructure is housed in the same space as its core infrastructure, it’s likely the space is not optimized to cost-effectively run IT infrastructure that’s not mission critical. Most data center environments are built to be available 99.999 percent of the time—and the non-critical nature of R&D infrastructure does not require that level of uptime. Two thirds of respondents are still running this R&D infrastructure on fully redundant (2N) power. Power cost accounts for 50 percent of data center spend, and paying for twice the needed amount equates to real money. Purpose-built wholesale space allows organizations to run mixed environments without overpaying for redundancies.

We definitely understand the challenges you face when it comes to mixed-use environments running diverse workloads, and that’s why it makes sense to think critically about where they sit, how they function in conjunction with the rest of your infrastructure and ultimately develop a cohesive solution. This is just the greatest hits—The full results and data live on the website here, and you can check out additional graphic content here. We’re bringing this data to the table because we think it’s essential to get this conversation off the ground, so please chime in with your thoughts and with questions. We’d love to hear what you think.