Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Postcards from Gartner's IT Infrastructure, Ops & Management Summit 2007

Orlando is steaming, and Gartner's newest IT Summit hasn't been far behind. This is Gartner's first summit of its type, with reasonable attendance (~800) and a great line-up of talks and break-out sessions. Monday was also where Cassatt announced its partnership with BladeLogic.

The event opened with a keynotes from Mike Chuba and Cameron Haight, followed by a great forw
ard-looking talk on the future of infrastructure and operations from Tom Bittman. He clearly sees the period between 2008-2012 as a shift from "Silos" to shared IT "Pools" - as virtualization itself shifts from consolidation to higher-value to the data center. He further predicted that starting around 2010, true Real Time Infrastructure will become mainstream (see the picture). This will be the enabler as IT-as-a-utility.

But he was careful to define growing distinctions between types of virtualization:
At the Application level, there are containers, zones, LPARs, VPARS;At the O/S level, we're seeing a number mainstream VM technologies, including SW appliances; and, at the Hardware layer, we are seeing Grid and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (i.e. Amazon EC2).

Perhaps the most entertaining 'guest' keynote was from Peter Cochrane - ex-CIO for BT, and now a highly-regarded consultant. Brilliant, wry and witty, he opened by positing that IT's reality is having to deal with heterogeneity, mobility and increasing availability of bandwidth. With that bandwidth, (which will be exploited via increasing penetration of fiber, frequency-hopping and spatial distribution) the notions of connectivity to the "cloud" will be pervasive. And, the concepts of "connectivity" and "communication" will begin to shift to concepts of "location" and "presence". The other theme he put forward was one of release of control/centralization. He began with the fact that central control of broadcast bandwidth was shifting from a few thousand outlets (broadcast TV, radio, etc.) to billions of sources (phones, pervasive wifi, transmission "hopping", etc.) Release of control was also shifting from creativity in the office to creativity at home... very web 2.0 -- Oh, and he reitterated that the best definition of web 2.o was put forth by Tim O'Reilly a number of years ago (one of my favorite pieces).

One of the most well-attended break-out sessions on day 1 was run by Ed Holub & Debra Curtis, "Running IT Like a Business" - putting forth that IT has to think of itself not as a cost center, but as a business unit with customer management, product management, marketing, financial controls and... yes... pricing. This of course requires that IT figure out how to identify costs and provide charge-back. And finally, it requires that IT be comfortable with losing business to competitors, i.e. outsourcers. More than ever, running IT-as-a-Utility to achieve efficiencies seems more needed than ever here.

Another series of sessions dealt with Data Center Power Management. It was clear that the current way of running data center was essentially going to run out of electrical capacity in the future - so talk was not only about server efficiency, but cooling efficiency, and prudent facilities design as well. One particularly interesting breakout session, hosted by Will Cappelli, "The Convergence of Operations and Energy Management". The observations here were huge: companies w/large data centers will come face-to-face with international & domestic carbon emissions regulations; IT and Facilities orgs will be required to work together to increase overall energy efficiency; IT energy & power consumption will have to be managed and intelligently optimized (on this, see my previous blog on turning off idled servers).

Clearly, there were tons of other content regarding IT Operations management, Process (i.e. ITIL), discussion around CMDBs, virtualization and more. Way too much to summarize. But stay-tuned as I may comment on some of these from time-to-time :)

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

"Green Data Centers" and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group

Last month Cassatt Corp. hosted a special meeting of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group's Energy Efficient Data Center Demonstration Project. With about 20 companies represented in the room, the topic (hosted by Ray Pfeifer, SVLG's Chair of the Project) was centered on radical new ways to cut the rapidly-rising power consumption (and cost) of running today's large data centers.

The Question: We posed the following question to the audience -- Why keep servers turned on when they are not being used? This is especially impactful when you consider a recent APC white paper indicating that the average server consumes about 50% of its loaded power, even when sitting idle. The analogy is to lighting in modern office buildings, where motion sensors only turn lights on for occupied rooms... and when a room is deemed idle and unoccupied, lighting is turned off. Why couldn't the same analogy apply to the over-provisioned servers in a data center - during peak times, as well as to nights/weekends? Clearly the problem is not as simplistic as light switches, but why isn't there a solution?

The Demo: So, with 3 video projectors blazing, two live data centers on-line, and the Collage Software in control, we set out to prove to the audience that power management was not only possible, but that it would save money as well. The scenario illustrated that an external trigger (say, a "curtailment event" from a local utility) could cause Collage to apply policies to power-down low-priority servers (according to their power consumption and/or efficiency) and even migrate-away their compute loads to another data center where power was cheaper. Obviously, the same could be done on a scheduled basis as well. Well, the demo was a success, even down to watching real-time power consumption curves dip-and-settle.

Not uncoincidentally, it turns out that power companies (like PG&E here in Sunny CA) offer incentives for shifting power to off-peak times, as well as special demand-response programs and incentives for firms that react to electrical demand during "events" by additional short-term reductions in power use (like turning off lights & HVAC). Our initial conversations with PG&E (who was also in the room!) showed that they were eager to pursue this type of approach, and confirmed that Cassatt was the first to tackle this problem!

The Numbers: Following the demonstration, we also ran some conservative financial numbers. They showed that a company with 500 typical servers could regularly schedule shut-downs of idle equipment -- even during peak periods as well as nights/weekends -- and save 20% + of their total energy costs! These indications were significantly encouraging regarding the economics of this approach.

The Punchline: So, what there was to take away here is that medium-to-large data centers can save a bunch of $, be "green", and do so without having to change any hardware or software! So ask yourself -- as you pursue installation of energy-efficient IT *equipment* why are you not also pursuing energy-efficient *operation* of that equipment??

My Related Blogs:
4/6/07 - D'oh: Turning Off Idle Servers
1/22/07 - Clothes Driers, Data Centers, and Power Management