Friday, September 28, 2007

The IT Power Divide

The electric grid and the computing grid (RoughType: Nicholas Carr): Nicholas describes the incredible disconnect between IT's perception of power as an issue
...[O]nly 12% of respondents believe that the energy efficiency of IT equipment is a critical purchasing criterion.
and the actual scale of the issue in reality
...[A] journeyman researcher named David Sarokin has taken a crack at estimating the overall amount of energy required to power the country's computing grid...[which] amounts to about 350 billion kWh a year, representing a whopping 9.4% of total US electricity consumption.
Amen, brother. In fact, the reason you haven't heard from me as often in the last two to three weeks is that I have been steadfastly attending a variety of conferences and customer prospect meetings discussing Active Power Management and SLAuto. What I've learned is that there are deep divides between the IT and facility views of electrical efficiency:
  • IT doesn't see the electric bill, so they think power is mostly an upfront cost issue (building a data center with enough power to handle eventual needs) and an ongoing capacity issue (figuring out how to divide power capacity among competing needs). However, their bottom line remains meeting the service needs of the business.

  • Facilities doesn't see the constantly changing need for information technology of the business, and sees electricity mostly as a upfront capacity issue (determining how much power to deliver to the data center based on square footage and proposed Kw/sq ft) and an ongoing cost issue (managing the monthly electric bill). The bottom line in this case is value, not business revenue.

Thus, IT believes that once they get a 1 Mw data center, they should figure out how to efficiently use that 1 Mw--not how to squeeze efficiencies out of the equipment to run at some number measurably below 1 Mw. Meanwhile, facilities gets excited about any technology that reduces overall power consumption and maintains excess power capacity, but lacks the insight into what approaches can be taken that will not impact the business's bottom line.

With an SLAuto approach to managing power for data centers, both organizations can be satisfied--if they would only take the time to listen to each other's needs. IT can get a technical approach that minimizes (or has zero effect) on system productivity, while facilities sees a more "optimal" power bill every month. Furthermore, facilities can finally integrate IT into the demand curtailment programs offered by their local power utilities, which can generate significant additional rebates for the company.

Let me know what you think here. Am I off base? Do you speak regularly with your facilities/IT counter part, and actively search for ways to reduce the cost of electricity while meeting service demand?

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