Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Green Grid Technical Forum: Day #2

Today was Day #2 of the Green Grid forum in San Francisco, of which Cassatt has recently joined as a member.

The day opened with a session on the differing behavior, goals and relationships of IT operations contrasted with facilities management.

However, what really kicked-off the theme for the day was the discussion of data center metrics, specifically, what's meant by "Data Center Productivity." The chair and co-chairs of the Metrics Work Group delved into a proposed metric DCeP, essentially = (Useful Work)/(Energy Consumed). To be fair, this metric is proposed as a guidepost only -- in other words, the units of "useful work" could vary, based on who's using the formula. Thus, it's not meant to compare one data center to another, but would certainly be useful when tracking improvements in one's own data center. And, naturally, the "families" of DCeP ratios would vary based on whether the data center is a Tier I, II, III or IV facility.

Later in the day, a session followed where a number of members presented how they're currently measuring actual PUE's of their own data centers. This included members such as Digital Realty Trust, Eaton Electric, HP, Microsoft, Texas Instruments and British Telecom. This was also really insightful -- to hear the hows and whys of physically taking the measurements (sometimes automated, sometimes "a guy with a clipboard") as well as how the metrics were being used. In one case, HP, after measuring something like 18 different data center PUEs, discovered one facility what was *way* out-of-whack (read: poor) compared with the others. I suspect this factored heavily when HP decided which centers to de-commission first as they consolidated.

Also eye-opening was the story of another member who observed that use of efficient equipment alone was not sufficient to score "high" with a PUE. Remember, it's the ratio of energy-in::Energy-reaching-IT-equipment. So, in our friend's case, his brand-spanking-new data center was operating at a fraction of it's total capacity... but had all of it's infrastructure (cooling, power distribution, etc.) running as well. Therefore the computed ratio in fact turned out to be worse than most of his older data centers. Thus the observation: maximize your efficiency by always balancing facility "overhead" against the IT load.

Finally, it was incredibly refreshing to see all of these heavy-hitters cooperating for the common good of the industry, setting competitive pressures aside. Picture Intel & AMD in the same room; Dell, Sun, IBM & HP on the same committee. In fact, the only amusing scene was when printouts for directions to the Director's dinner were handed-out to the Microsoft representatives -- printouts generated from Google Maps.

All-in-all, the 2-day meeting was a huge success, sharing information and aligning the body of over 130 companies.

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