Larger realities of energy in the datacenter

I’m with Arthur Cole: as important as cost and “the environment” are in design and operation of datacenters, they remain subordinate to “data and application performance”.

That’s why he recently wrote, “Green IT for Better Application Performance“. The most compelling reason to get energetics right in your datacenter is not a marginal impact on carbon footprint, but simply because “… power, cooling or space issues” constrain the ability to deliver applications to end-users.

Let’s be clear on the context: yes, energy consumption in the datacenter is important. I write on the subject often. It’s structurally different from the conversation around, say, transportation, though. Serious people argue about whether fleet averages can be pushed from, say, 25 miles per gallon (mpg), to 28 mpg, and how many years might be required. In eighteen months, though, the energy efficiency of standard computations doubles. And it’ll happen again during the eighteen months which follow, just as has been happening for over a half-century. We’re still at the beginning of what computers can do, and it’s far, far more important now to look for the order-of-magnitude gains, than sweating a percent or two.

Unless, of course, your situation has you already within a few percent of a crash into limits you can’t wait out. That’s the situation for plenty of datacenter operators crammed into a physical space that they’ve outgrown. Cole aptly describes a few of the clever initiatives that help these cases. What many outsiders to the larger topic of datacenter infrastructure management (DCIM) still don’t understand is how juvenile the domain is. We’re just now learning, rapidly, how to engineer a datacenter wisely, and there’s a long way to go.

That’s why a headline like “EuroCloud project aims to develop microprocessors that will require only 10% of energy consumed by those in use today” is more believable and less momentous than might first appear. Such technology already exists in a way that “a car that runs on water” or other fantasies never will.

The best use most datacenters can make of energy is to optimize operations in computing terms, and bring in specialists like the ones Cole cites to take advantage of the latest engineering advances in provisioning. For the former, the “Application Monitor” will return to the subject of DCIM several times this winter for ideas on how “to better align data and facilities resources”, as Cole phrases it.

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