Monday, September 24, 2007

Obstacles to Greener Computing

In a post on, Emerson Network Power, the Data Center Users Group (a Emerson-sponsored organization), the EPA and Lawrence Berkeley National Labs conducted a survey showing that at least 65 percent of IT managers are using at least some form of energy efficiency practices to reduce costs and lower their environmental impact.

The obstacles they found to achieving such efficiencies include:
  • 40% - lack of encouragement from top management
  • 36% - widespread unawareness of the cost/benefit relationship of energy efficiency
  • 35% - enterprises not wanting to risk reliability
  • 33% - lack of communication between IT and facilities departments

There were some other interesting statistics on energy consumption in the data center:

  • 60% of the data center electrical load is used to power IT equipment:
    - 56% of that being used to power servers,
    - 27% for storage
    - 19% for network equipment

Some other interesting random data points:
  • 41 % of survey respondents said their data center electrical usage is not metered separately from the rest of their facilities.
  • 81% of operators believe that by 2012 they will need additional data center capacity, despite the fact that 64 percent have built or upgraded their data center in the last five years.
  • 27% of respondents believe that despite consolidation and the use of virtualization, their server inventory will increase throughout the next five years.
My big takeaways from this: (1) There's still a big awareness & organizational rift between Facilities & IT Operations, and (2) that efficiencies still stink, and (3) data centers will still grow, as will the energy problem.

Friday, September 21, 2007

A Special PodCast on Active Power Management

Last week I teamed-up with our partner BearingPoint to record a brief overview of Active Power Management: Your On-Ramp to Utility Computing. BearingPoint's Managing Director of Financial Services Infrastructure Solutions joined me to discuss what is meant by Utility Computing. We covered how BearingPoint is organized to help customers implement this type of solution, how it changes the economics and operations of computing, and simple places to start for any medium-to-large enterprise.

One of the best places to begin using automation to optimize IT resource consumption is Active Power Management, i.e. applying policy and software-aware power control, all in a platform-agnostic power optimization scheme. Why ARE your idle machines on if they're not being used?

BTW, there are some other great technology-related BearingPoint Podcasts here too.

Monday, September 3, 2007

The Next Big Thing in data center efficiency: Active Power Management

Tuesday will be a "D'oh" moment for anyone who runs a Data Center and cares about electricity operating costs.

Even the EPA missed this one in their recent Report on Server and Data Center Energy Efficiency.

It's Active Power Management: That is, safely and intelligently powering-down unused and/or idle servers, and re-powering them when needed. It's a huge (and obvious) move when you consider that the average server burns-up more than half of its fully-loaded rated power when it's just sitting doing nothing.

Reams have already been written about energy-efficient servers, DC power distribution, improved cooling systems, hot/cold aisles, and of course server consolidation. But they've all missed-the-boat -- until today. And the solution is surprisingly simple.

Regardless of the type of server and type of software, this technology is non-disruptive to the data center. It's also the moral-equivalent to turning off the lights in a room that you're not using. Think of the Thousands of servers that sit idle most of the time in Development/Test, or in a "warm" failover facility.

What's the secret sauce?
  • It's the ability to gracefully shut-down software prior to turning off the box, and then ensuring re-start when the box is needed again.
  • It's the ability to set policies around application importance and interrelationships, and to be able to communicate directly with the software during a power-cycle.
  • It's the ability to do all of this from a hardware- and software-neutral perspective
  • And, it's the ability to do this in a way that will please both IT and facilities
The singular superstition about turning-off servers is why data centers have kept every single server in their inventory on all of the time. Until now.

All made possible with Cassatt's leading ability to apply sophisticated optimization technology to any problem in the data center. And don't just believe me. Look at what PG&E, Brocade, and IDC are saying. This should help raise-the-bar for energy-efficiency best-practices in the data center.