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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I think the term "chill out" was aimed more at the people who want to use terms like "crisis" and "panic" about datacenter power usage... NOT the idea that we don't have to or need to measure & manage.

As I said in my comment on that Server Specs post, the "crisis" and "panic" is being driven by cost more than anything really about power or environmental concern. Electrical Power has replaced Network in the datacenter consumable price world. The meters counting Kilowatt Hours are generating more financial concern now that the ones counting Bits Per Second have seen their prices plummet. I was just perusing some four year old bandwidth proposals while searching for an old contract and was SHOCKED by the prices of what I thought was "cheap bandwidth" back in 2003/2004. Unlike network pricing, utility rates and more importantly the commodity costs surrounding power such as copper and fuel prices have literally skyrocketed in the past decade. Every time we refill the generator fuel tank or call the electricians to run a new circuit we wince at the rising cost.

YES, datacenter managers must monitor and measure every aspect of their facilities, but we do not need to "panic" at artificial "crises".

You are right that current "server" hardware is nowhere near as efficient as it should be, and therefore a LOT of efficiencies can be gained by better management tools.


Posted by: chuck goolsbee | May 16, 2007 5:29:36 PM

Our business measures the right data, and we could get even better at measuring it, but we don't act on it all that much.

Why? Because our datacenter providers give us no incentive to shut down servers or put them into power-saving modes or anything. We pay for the full utilization of each circuit, no matter what.

If we were incentivized, by being billed on usage rather than a flat per-circuit fee, we'd get really religious about utilization in a heartbeat.

That being said, power & cooling are easily our biggest datacenter problems looming ahead, so I hope smart people are thinking about solutions. :)

Posted by: Don MacAskill | May 17, 2007 10:56:33 PM

Bring your stuff over to the facility I run Don, we charge by the kilowatt hour.

Posted by: chuck goolsbee | May 18, 2007 11:16:42 AM

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