May 28, 2007

The “It’s not my problem” message

We’ve been taking the recent IBM Project Big Green announcement around the world. I’ll provide snapshots of my findings from customer discussions as we circle the globe. It will be interesting to see if our potential clients see this problem consistently or if differences exist around the world. We traveled across Canada last week and are visiting a number of cities across Europe this week.

I’ve run into one surprising problem that I had heard from customers before but I did not realize how potentially pervasive the problem was.

I would characterize it as "It’s not my problem." The conversations follow the following pattern.

Client … "I realize that our data centers are large power users within our corporation but we don’t have to worry about it."

Interviewer …. "Why would that be the case?"

Client …. "We do not get charged for the power we actually use….. The corporation charges all users a flat rate per square foot ….. So we are getting charged the same amount for our data centers as office space with the same square footage."

I know that this is not the case for many, many customers, but I’ve been surprised at how often this reason for not taking action has come up. It is surprising since a recent survey from one of the international specialist in this area showed that data centers use 15-30 X more energy per square foot then traditional office space.

In many cases cost allocations are simple processes that fairly allocate costs across organizations in an effective way. The costs are close enough to reality to encourage action that can benefit the corporation and its shareholders. Energy use is not one of those examples.

The challenge is that improved cost allocation accuracy may for many companies be difficult …I agree that there is a challenge at the user level and that solutions like the recent Tivoli billing enhancements are a step in the right direction. But at the data center level the actual cost allocation should not be that significant a challenge.

I would encourage CIOs to take action now and get the facts and start taking action. Given the increasing energy use and cost within the data center you have an opportunity now to take leadership or wait until your CFO and CEO start to understand the problem themselves and ask you to provide the solution.

Personally, I’ve always found the proactive approach works best.

by Steve Sams May 28, 2007
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May 23, 2007

Who would have guessed?

On May 10, IBM announced Project Big Green which is focused on helping customers to solve the end-to-end data center energy challenge. It includes:

  • IBM offerings to provide leadership energy efficient information technology (servers, storage),
  • Services to help the clients get the facts around their total energy use for both the data center infrastructure and their IT equipment and design,
  • A green grid supported metric to provide a standard of data center energy efficiency comparison,
  • Services and offerings to build new or retrofit green data centers and,
  • Tivoli Management systems that link the data center infrastructure to the IT technology including ability for Tivoli to use energy-based policy to automate things like workload consolidation and turning off unused IT equipment during low computing demand periods and bringing them  back on stream when demand returns.

In addition to the IBM announcements, Anixter, Eaton, Emerson/Liebert, GE, and Schneider/APC issued joint press releases with IBM, in support of Project Big Green or the IBM Energy Efficiency Initiative. They are each rolling out their own solutions to drive improved energy efficiency across their cooling and electrical offerings.

One final piece to the announcement included the Energy Efficiency Incentive Finder. The finder is an open systems based tool that will provide clients with a one stop shop to find government and energy utility incentives and programs that promote energy anywhere in the world that they have a data center. The tool should be available in 3Q2007 after the utility companies and governments around the world have had a chance to populate it with their programs.

Although IBM expected this to be of interest to the data center community… what is surprising is the reaction from the broader community. Within four hours of the announcement more then 250 articles had been published around the world. I suspect that part of this interest is related to the Gore global warming movement and wide interest in making the planet a better place to live for both ourselves and future generations. IBM estimated that energy savings on a typical 25,000 sq foot data center is equal to about $1.1M per year (at $0.12/Kw-hr) or about 5.2 Million pounds of coal that would not have to be used for power generation.

That is like taking about 920 cars off the road……. permanently. Maybe we should start a “Data center to save the planet” movement.

by Steve Sams May 23, 2007 in Assessments, Design, Energy Efficiency, Power & Cooling, Services
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May 21, 2007

Virtualization Vital in Driving Data Center Efficiency

As server power consumption has increased eightfold and the installed base continues climbing more than 15% annually, IDC estimates that by 2010, roughly 35 million servers will be installed in data centers around the globe. This "installed base boom" is no doubt leading to the server gap in data center power and cooling capabilities. At the same time, the boom provides us with an opportunity to come together to explore new ways to increase power performance, improve productivity and efficiency, generate new capacity for future growth and, oh yeah, reduce costs. In the end, we'll be contributing to a greener planet.

We can get started by consolidating the footprint of physical servers in play today and virtualization is vital in making that happen. While technical in nature, virtualization is really a fairly easy concept to comprehend. From a systems standpoint, systems use energy and give off heat whether they are in use 100% of the time or just 15% of the time. Server virtualization allows a physical server to be partitioned to run multiple secure virtual servers, reducing server quantity and related costs/energy used.

California-based Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is adopting virtualization to lead the way by transforming its San Francisco, Fairfield and Diablo Canyon IT operations into energy-efficient data centers. The company has adopted a  Mobile Measurement Technology (MMT) System  to measure temperature distributions in data centers that is heling PG&E consolidate virtualize servers to reduce energy consumption.  And from a system utilization standpoint, PG&E expects utilization to increase from 10 percent of capacity to more than 80 percent.

PG&E is also the first energy company to offer incentives to spur virtualization technology adoption, enticing customers to dismantle under-utilized computing data and storage equipment. The program reimburses PG&E customers up to 50 percent of the costs of a server consolidation project – including software, hardware and consulting – up to a maximum of $4 million per customer. Kudos to PG&E for taking a leadership role in promoting the virtualized data center.

Is your company driving innovative data center solutions we could benefit from? Let's use The Raised Floor as our platform for staying abreast of the some of the best.

by Mike Desens May 21, 2007 in Design, Energy Efficiency, SysAdmins, Virtualization
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May 18, 2007

Power and Cooling are Problems for EVERYONE

I often speak with clients about the recent issues around power and cooling in the data center. While very large financial services companies have been dealing with these problems for the last two years, many smaller companies think the problem doesn't apply to them. This simply isn't the case. Even if a company only has one rack of servers, the new power densities associated with modern servers run hot enough that standard room cooling systems do not provide the capability to cool an entire rack of blade servers.

While every tech vendor is now espousing "green" energy-efficient systems, the reality is that most companies are not simply throwing out legacy equipment to replace it with these new "cooler" platforms. What this means is that IT shops must first assess what their actual power and cooling situation is, regardless of size. Then, IT managers must determine what tactical actions can be taken to mitigate the problem in the short term. Finally, a power and cooling strategy should be developed that takes into consideration the expected future technologies, working in concert with facilities management.

by Jerald Murphy May 18, 2007 in Power & Cooling
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May 16, 2007

You can't manage what you don't measure......

There's a great deal of buzz in the market today about the power and cooling crisis in the data center. I just read a Server Specs post suggesting we all just "chill out" as power consumption in the data center isn't all that bad.  As I go around the world talking with clients, I get the impression that this is a very real and substantive issue for man. However, many are in the dark (pardon the pun) as to exactly where the power is being consumed or how efficiently they are utilizing their IT assets. While it is broadly accepted as fact that most x86 servers are utilized less than 10%, very few customers actually measure their actual utilization. According to IDC, nearly half (46.8%) of data center managers do not know how many watts per square foot their data centers can or do support. The other 50% were thought to be largely "guessing" when they said that they do know.

There is an old saying that you can't manage what you don't measure and it seems that this is a case in point. Tools for usage metering as well as monitoring and actively managing resource (processor, memory, I/O,...) utilization based on a set of business priorities have existed for decades in the mainframe environment and hence it is not surprising that these systems routinely run at 70% to 90% utilization. The good news is that these tools are emerging for the open systems environment and vendors are now adding power management to the capabilities. So now an IT manager can show an application owner or business line executive exactly how much resources they are consuming and how efficient - or inefficient - they are...including power. Whether or not an IT department does chargeback, presenting the facts can have a profound and sobering effect.

Are you of the mind to simply "chill out", or does your business have process in place for monitoring and measuring resource utilization and energy efficiency? I'd love to hear your perspective.

by Rich Lechner May 16, 2007 in Design, Energy Efficiency, Power & Cooling, Services
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May 14, 2007

Yahoo pushes "green living" - do its datacenters stack up?

Courtesy of Read/Write/Web, I see that Yahoo! has launched Yahoo! Green, a portal  designed to help people cut their carbon emissions .  Not only does the portal link to a variety of proactive energy-saving tips, the "Take Action" section enables you to design your very own personal carbon reduction plan.

Yahoo! itself has pledged to become carbon neutral by the end of 2007.  Pretty ambitious, no doubt, so I wonder; does that include  the energy consumed by its own datacenters?  The story I link to is a bit unclear on that point...

by David Berger May 14, 2007 in Design, Energy Efficiency, Who's Who
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May 11, 2007

Belgian Business Partner Views

Thanks to Marc Wambeke, an IBM Business Partner and blogger in Belgium, who writes on his Mainframe Watch Belgium blog about IBM's recent green data center announcements.  Check out the links to videos, including a couple funny viral videos to promote this new blog and one about a virtual data center in Second Life that IBM is using to manage power and energy efficiency.  Marc and business partners like him around the world will be on the front lines helping companies "green" their data centers.

by Will Runyon May 11, 2007 in Energy Efficiency, Who's Who
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May 08, 2007

The Data Center Energy Crisis

Welcome to The Raised Floor blog, a group-authored discussion about today's and tomorrow's data centers. Please share your comments and come back often.

As I talk to customers around the world about their data centers it's obvious they're in crisis and in many cases are not really sure what to do.

This crisis appears to be a mismatch between requirements and capabilities. Let me give you some examples that reflect the trends I've seen from reading a number of the consulting studies over the last few years.

On the requirements side, to meet application demands and the regulatory requirements (Sarbanes Oxley, HIPAA, Basel II) customers are installing more and more technology. Over the last 10 years, one estimate is that the server install base has grown by 6X and the storage install base has grown by 69X (UPDATE: See correction below.)

If these numbers are close to being true, then data centers must be having problems trying to keep up with demand.

In my view, this demand on the data center has three flavors:

Technology demands - How do I install new dense technologies like Blade Servers in a data center that was never designed to support them? Technologies like blade servers are inexpensive, flexible, scalable and generally significantly more energy and cooling efficient than their predecessors. So expect to continue to see demand for these technologies skyrocket.

Demands for increased energy use - How do I get enough power and cooling to support my technology needs into my data center? Growth rates like those mentioned previously are putting huge pressures on the existing data center infrastructures that were built a number of years ago. One estimate is that more than 80% of current data centers were built prior to 2001. Gartner just published an opinion that any data center more than five years old is obsolete.

Demands for increased expense - Take the growth curve for servers and storage and turn it into a growth curve for energy use, and then multiply this logarithmic increase in energy use with increasing energy cost. I don't know about your location, but the cost of energy has been growing at double-digit rates where I live. The impact on IT expense is significant. Power may now be 30-40% of the IT operations budget, if energy is actually charged out to users based on real costs.

If these demands appear to reflect your data center environment, then what should we all be doing?

CORRECTION: The projected 6x growth in servers and 69x growth in storage is expected to occur between the years 2000 and 2010.

by Steve Sams May 8, 2007 in Assessments, Design, Energy Efficiency, Power & Cooling, Services, SysAdmins, Virtualization, Who's Who
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