Friday, June 27, 2008

Sanity check: Data center energy summit

As I mentioned in yesterday's entry, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group's (SVLG) energy summit was fantastic - the first time I've seen actual implementations and data from innovations to help with energy efficiency. But on further reflection, there was something missing and rather alarming.

BTW, all of the the data was correct, and the conclusions were dead-on - the findings/predictions from the 2007 EPA report on data center efficiency were validated.

However, check out the list of projects in the Accenture report: 9 of them focused on site infrastructure, while only 3 of them focused on IT equipment.

Why weren't more projects aimed at making the IT equipment itself more efficient?

Now, if you look at where power is used in a data center, you'll find that with a "good" PUE, 30% might go toward infrastructure (with 70% getting to IT equipment), and that with a "bad" PUE, maybe 60% goes toward infrastructure (with the remaining 40% getting to IT equipment). In either case, the IT equipment is chewing-up a great deal of the total energy consumed... and yet only 1/4 of the projects undertaken had to do with curbing that energy.

This is like saying that a car engine is the chief energy-consuming component in a car, but that to increase gas mileage, scientists are focusing on drive trains and tire pressure.

My take is that the industry is addressing the things it knows and feels comfortable with: wires, pipes, ducts, water, freon, etc. Indeed, these are the "low-hanging fruit" of opportunities to reduce data center power. But why aren't IT equipment vendors addressing the other side of the problem: Compute equipment and how it's operated?

IT equipment is operated as an "always-on" and statically-allocated resource. Rather, it needs to be viewed as a dynamically-allocated, only-on-when-needed resource. More of a "utility" style resource. This approach will ultimately (and continuously) minimize capital resources, operational resources and (by association) power, while always optimizing efficiency. It is where the industry is going -- what's termed as cloud computing. This observation cuts directly to Bill Coleman's keynote (video here) earlier this week at O'Reilly's Velocity conference. It also alludes to Subodh Bapat's keynote where he outlined a continuously-optimized IT, energy, facilities and power grid system.

I certainly hope that at the SVLG's data center energy summit '09 next year, more projects focus on how IT equipment is operated, rather than on the "plumbing" that surrounds it. I can't wait to see the efficiency numbers that emanate from an "IT Cloud" resource.

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