CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—When blade technologist Ken Baker takes a look around the industry, he sees a lot of pieces in place already to make data centers energy efficient.
Chip makers are rolling out multicore processors that offer higher performance without spikes in power consumption, OEMs are using a combination of hardware and software features to make their servers more efficient and companies that make power supplies are rolling out products designed to save users money on energy costs.
What Baker isnt seeing is widespread adoption of these technologies by users, or data center designers making energy efficiency a priority.
“One bit of responsibility I want to throw back into the industry is on data center designers themselves,” Baker, a blade system infrastructure technologist with Hewlett-Packard, said Aug. 14 during a panel discussion on green computing at an event here hosted by Advanced Micro Devices. Most facilities are designed based on data from the previous three to five years, he said, “and if you design it that way, you will get 3- to 5-year-old results.”
All the panelists at the event were members of the Green Grid, a nonprofit consortium of industry players that is looking to curb the IT industrys ravenous power consumption.
Bruce Taylor, chief analyst at the Uptime Institute and moderator of the panel, spoke of an “economic meltdown of Moores Law,” saying that the energy efficiency of technology is not keeping pace with the growth in processing power.
Click here to read more about what hardware designers can do to reduce data center energy consumption.
“There is clearly a thermal density problem and a power problem in the data center,” Taylor said.
He outlined the issue with numbers that are becoming familiar to an industry in which the costs of powering and cooling technology threaten to outstrip the cost of the technology itself. The IT industry currently consumes 1.5 percent of the energy in the United States, and that is expected to grow to 3 percent by 2010, making the industry the second largest industrial consumer of power, behind heavy manufacturing.
The price of building a new data center has quadrupled since 2000, in large part due to the costs associated with the infrastructure needed to power and cool the building. And Taylor said that in a report issued by the Aperture Research Institute in 2006, 40 percent of respondents said they had run out of space, power or cooling capacity in their data centers without having had sufficient warning.
John Tuccillo, marketing director at American Power Conversion, said that as much as 47 to 51 percent of the power going into data centers is used to cool the facilities, rather than going to the computing resources themselves.
The issue is getting attention at the federal level. The Environmental Protection Agency issued a report to Congress on Aug. 2 outlining the energy challenges facing the IT industry and steps that should be taken to mitigate the problems.
The panelists agreed that vendors need to work together to create a holistic approach to addressing the issue, a key driver behind the creation of the Green Grid in April 2006. In addition, they touted the numerous products and features that already offer enterprises ways to reduce their energy costs, from virtualization to multicore processors.
Baker spoke of HPs Dynamic Smart Cooling software, which offers dynamic management of power and cooling in data centers and is a technology that HP is implementing in the six new data centers its building in the United States.
Issues Preventing Green IT
Likewise, Samuel Naffziger, a senior fellow with AMD—which is preparing to launch its quad-core Opterons in September—touted the PowerNow technology in his companys processors, which can automatically increase or decrease the amount of power to the chip depending on demand.
In response to a question from the audience, several panelists agreed that if an enterprise used all the energy-efficient features available today in its data center it could see a cost savings of as much as 50 percent.
The key, they said, is convincing users to implement the technologies. For a variety of reasons, enterprises are not adopting these cost-saving technologies on a wholesale basis. One challenge is that enterprise IT folks rarely deal with the budget issues of data centers—which normally fall to another unit that runs the facilities—so they dont usually have to worry about the costs associated with the technology thats put into data centers. That gap needs to bridged, Taylor said.
“Until IT takes ownership of the facilities … were not going to solve this problem,” he said.
Another issue is that there is a natural delay between the time when these new technologies become available and when businesses can bring them on board during their normal refresh cycles, Baker said. In addition, it takes time before technologies such as virtualization enter the mainstream.
“Theres a lag to everything,” he said. “Patience is one thing we should have, to some extent. Im not confident this economic meltdown will last.”
Still, users will have to take advantage of the technologies available to them if they want to ease the power crunch. Brent Kerby, product marketing manager for Opteron at AMD, said only about 10 percent of users enable the power management capabilities in their processors. “People just arent taking advantage of this,” he said.
Dick Sullivan, senior marketing manager for EMC, said customers are looking for help, but not enough of them are taking advantage of what is already available.
Read more here about how the government may consider a tax break as an incentive for more energy-efficient IT products.
Naffziger agreed. “As much sophistication as we put into [AMD chips], a lot of [the power-saving features go] go untapped,” he said.
Richard Villars, an analyst with IDC, questioned whether the panelists were “blaming the victim a little here,” challenging them on whether they were criticizing users on one hand while they and their channel partners were selling businesses these power-hungry products on the other.
Several panelists said they wont sell large systems to users without sending an engineer to the customer site to evaluate what that data center can support.
Baker said a key will be giving enterprises the tools and standards needed to measure their power consumption, an important step in helping them determine how best to become more efficient. “You cant manage what you dont measure,” he said.
In addition, he and other panelists said that the more vendors can work together to give users a holistic approach to power savings and to automate as much of the work as possible, the easier it will be for businesses to adopt energy-efficient technologies.
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