Monday, May 5, 2008

More IT efficiency metrics: McKinsey & Co. data center study

Last week at the Uptime Institute symposium on IT Energy Efficiency, Will Forest of McKinsey & Co. rolled-out a major study they've done, "Revolutionizing Data Center Efficiency". BTW, to my surprise, this report was even picked-up by the New York Times.

True-to-form, the report is chock-full of really great data. Also true-to-form, it has lots of words... and it has (ahem) yes, yet a
new IT efficiency metric.

Getting a bit of negativity out of the way first, I can't say that there was anything "revolutionary" in the report, at least in terms of revolutionary recommendations. However, the recommendations were much more detailed/actionable than what I've seen come out of other such reports. And, building on the seminal
2007 EPA report to congress on server and data center energy efficiency, this report definitely has indisputable analysis that data centers are inefficient and energy hogs... and where those inefficiencies lie.

Next, a few high-points from the report:

  • 40% of equipment (on average) is in Development/Test, vs. Production
  • Data Center greenhouse emissions will surpass that or airlines by 2020
  • Server utilization is still low; up to 30% of servers are "dead"; average cooling utilization is only 50%
  • The move from mainframes to client/server & multi-tier has exacerbated the problem by creating multiple silos of poor efficiency & utilization -- and encouraging sloppy design
The sources of the crisis suggested by McKinsey include
  1. poor application design
  2. poor power & cooling design
  3. poor capacity management
  4. poor application of efficient design & technology
  5. lack of Sr. executive oversight of operations & TCO
Now, it wouldn't be a high-end consultant's report if it didn't include a new metric. McKinsey's is called the Corporate Average Data center Efficiency (CADE) = (Facility Efficiency) x (Asset Efficiency).
- Facility Efficiency is defined as (Facility Energy Efficiency) * (Facility Utilization)
- Asset Efficiency is defined as (IT Energy Efficiency) * (IT utilization)

McKinsey also suggested differing types of initiatives (facility-based and IT-based) and the level-of-impact they would have. Aside from the hypothetical nature of this, I *really* like this chart, because it can begin to help IT & facilities professionals rank where to start. I also like it because it explicitly recommends power management solutions.

Anyway, this all makes perfect sense, except for two (pragmatic) issues
(1) The industry can't even agree on what units to use for "efficiency" -- in fact, few can even agree on what "useful work" output of a data center even is.
(2) Just when it looked like there was going to be a simplified efficiency metric (i.e. the PUE, or the Power Usage Effectiveness put forth by The Uptime Institute and Green Grid) now there's another one.

Then, add-in the fact that McKinsey wants to instill a 5-level rating system, with 5 CADE "tiers" (ranging from 0-5%, 5-10%, 10-20%, 20-40% and > 40% efficient) . Nice, if you can just agree on units. Oh - - and that's in addition to a rating system already put forward by the Green Grid, and ranking systems being proposed by the Department of Energy's DC-Pro tool, and the EPA Energy Star program that will (in the future) rank data centers.

Net-net: I'm not dinging McKinsey's desire to throw something unique into the ring. It has merit (I suppose).

In the end, maybe determining the best metric to follow is to take Dr. Ruth's suggestion: Do whatever works for you.


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