As any savvy CIO, data center (DC) manager or vendor knows, the increase in and consolidation of compute power, along with the growth of additional IT assets populating the data center (DC), has created a major spike in power demand. CFOs and facilities managers need only look at their electric bills for verification. Generally accepted industry estimates for DC power consumption conclude that more than 50% of the bill is dedicated to the cooling infrastructure.
Meanwhile, the world governing body for air-conditioning practice, ASHRAE (American Society for Heating, Refrigerating and Air-conditioning Engineers), published data suggesting air-cooled mainframes and racks have heat loads in the range of 500 – 1500 W/ft2, and with the advent of new server designs that include thin server equipment of 1 ¾” high, a typical 84-inch cabinet can hold up to 40 of these, and the heat load per cabinet could be as high as 10,000W.
Greening the DC
Enterprise IT vendors such as Dell, HP and IBM have made major strides in reducing server and storage power consumption with help from Intel and AMD. IT vendors have also developed partnerships with CRAC (Computer Room Air Conditioning) manufacturers such as APC and Liebert along with deploying IT asset management software in conjunction with facilities management tools as well as deploying virtualization technologies such as VMware to assist in monitoring, regulating and ultimately lowering power consumption in all corners of the DC.
The DC as Holistic Organism
Needless to say, the calibration of so many different components that cross over multiple cost centers, including IT and facilities, is no easy task. DC vendors are learning how to bridge the gap between cost centers and navigate the many persistent political mine fields. However, IT is often its own worst enemy when it doesn’t view DC costs in a comprehensive or holistic way. The same can be said of vendors who turn a deaf ear to their client’s unique requirements instead of helping the customer determine the best solution for their needs.
As Wikibon contributor Eugean Hacopians of Caltech detailed for participants during his Peer Incite presentation April 6th, “Every computer room is different” He suggests that each DC is a living organism that needs to be assessed individually. “By being creative lots of unneeded equipment can be eliminated, often inexpensively with excellent ROI”. Eugean also gave practical, hands-on advice on how to improve the longevity of DC assets. Unfortunately he also bemoaned the fact that “too many vendors don’t listen to your problem and just try to sell their solution. If vendors don’t have a stake in the outcome they don’t take it seriously. This comes through loud and clear to a buyer. It’s like saying ‘If I can’t make good money from you I’m not interested.’ Vendors are better off listening, learning, offering suggestions and if there’s not a profitable relationship to be had then move on. But don’t advertise the fact that you don’t care.”
Data center technologies and best practices continue to evolve as improved energy efficient IT assets come to market and facilities requirements rapidly change. However, customer internal politics and vendor sales practices are slower to change. IT and facilities management will eventually yield to the higher logic of improved ROI and lower operating costs. Greener computing is an additional benefit that can be measured well beyond the walls of the DC. It is clear that some vendors have modified their messages and go to market strategies while others still lag behind.
Action Item: Vendor Action: Vendors need to continue to develop and roll-out data center solutions and strategies that view the DC as a living, evolving, holistic entity. In addition, vendors must offer customers useful ROI tools and metrics to assist both IT and facilities management to more easily justify the combining of DC budgets wherever it makes sense along with providing the maximum incentive for bridging political differences while recognizing and attempting to meet each clients unique requirements.