Monday, April 28, 2008

Postcards from Day #1, Uptime Institute's Green Enterprise Computing Symposium

Well, here we are in Orlando at the Uptime Institute's 2008 symposium on Green Enterprise computing. By Ken Brill's (the Institute's executive director) keynote estimates, we have 442 participants from 13 countries, and roughly a 50:50 split between technology providers and data center management.

Morning Keynote:
Ken Brill and Pitt Turner both gave pretty compelling keynotes -- first, by challenging the participants to providing a 50% energy reduction for data centers in the next 36 months. The possibility of this was driven home by the fact that Amazon Web Services can already deliver a CPU-Instance/Hour for $0.10. Could the rest of us? But more on all of this later.

Ken pointed out that at the current rate, there will be 15 million servers running by 2010, with that number doubling every 5 years or so. And what was really riveting was that the largest 1/3 of membership's data centers is growing at 27% CAGR; and even the average data center growth for membership was 12% CAGR. Clearly there is a massive construction (and energy use) boom in data centers in the U.S. This spells crisis.

Next, he focused on the excalating power/OpEx costs of operating a $2.5k server -- with much data taken from Jon Koomey's excellent studies. In a Tier II data center, that server's OpEx costs for power topped $5k; in a Tier III data center, OpEx costs were $7.7k, and in a Tier IV environment, power OpEx costs were a whopping $8.4k... all with power costs far outstripping the capital costs.

And so, Ken's request to the group: the only way to obtain a breakthrough 50% improvement on data center power consumption was to look at IT Operations, as driven from top-line management... rather than to pursue it from incremental facilities-based improvements.

Morning sessions
Ironically, two of the first three sessions of the morning - one on DC power, the other on power & cooling - focused on infrastructure improvements. And this, in my opinion, set the somewhat sobering theme for the day: while the participants would *like* to get to breakthrough energy strategies, the vendors are mostly stuck in pursing only incremental improvements. (Example: why would a leading power/cooling vendor focus on talking about hot/cold aisle containment, when they could have included forward-thinking adaptive management technologies that place cooling where it's needed while encouraging compute workload management?)

Next I attended a reasonably interesting roundtable panel titled "What can IT executives to Right Now to Increase Energy Efficiency?" co-chaired by Will Forest and Matt Stansberry. It became clear pretty early that the issue-at-hand wasn't one directly of technology. Rather, it was social: IT is incentivized on Uptime and on service delivery... not on power/energy cost. So, the concept of chargebacks, cost-transparency, and the "shining a flashlight" on cost are some of the places to begin to change behavior.

Afternoon Sessions
There were a number of other interesting breakout sessions including mine, chaired by Jon Koomey titled "Enabling Power Features to save 30+ percent". Jon kept this pretty focused, and we had a lively session with representives from HP, Microsoft, IBM, Visa and me from Cassatt. In the end, I think the room agreed that power-management and server hibernation features could indeed be leveraged to save significant power, but had to be implemented wisely, with potential tradeoffs between efficiency and high-availability. But, in a number of cases, this approach was highly warranted.

Other fun diversions today:
  • Chatting-it up with the very insightful bloggers Dave O'Hara of the Green Data Center Blog and Debra Grove of Grove Consulting (also with an excellent overview of the day in her blog)
  • Taking a tour of Rackable Systems' ICE Cube Data Center container
  • Sharing a drink (or two or three) with Kevin Heslin of Mission Critical Magazine

1 comment:

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