Panel Tackles Energy, Cooling Issues

Rising costs and the threat of running out of power capacity are forcing businesses to consider policy changes.

BALTIMORE—When it comes to power and cooling, even the biggest IT companies in the world worry about the electricity bill.

At the AdaptiveXchange conference Nov. 29, a panel of top data center administrators from Cisco Systems, Dell, Microsoft, VMware and Emerson Network Power—the host of the conference—discussed the types of power and cooling issues their companies have faced and how they adjusted to them. In addition to their own concerns and difficulties, panelists also discussed the issues that most affect their customers when managing data centers.

Before the show, Emerson released a study from its own Data Center Users Group that found heat and power density were top concerns, and much of the show focused on solutions that address some or all of these issues.

Several of the panelists discussed using virtualization technology—which gives the ability to partition a physical server into multiple virtual environments—as a way to reduce the number of physical servers in the data center. Steve Andreano, a data center architect with Cisco, said his company has undertaken a massive virtualization project that will eventually save between $40 million and $50 million in energy costs.

With its own data centers as models, Andreano said Cisco is urging its customers to look into virtualization and other methods of reducing data center costs to adapt to the new Web 2.0 applications that are becoming more popular with both consumers and enterprises.


Click here to read about Georgia State Universitys efforts to cut power use in its data center.

"The demand for these applications in the enterprise and these Web 2.0 applications are putting pressure on the data center, and theres a big impact on the amount of servers that are needed," Andreano said.

Another option for companies looking at adding more of these Web 2.0 applications is cloud computing, which Albert Esser, vice president of data center infrastructure at Dell, said could also help by drawing power to the data center at peak times.

Part of the discussion focused on backup sources of power and concerns about what happens when the local utility company cant offer any more power for a data center, even though there are demands for more applications and more servers to support those applications.

Christian Belady, the principal power and cooling architect for Microsofts Global Foundation Services, said the software giant has invested in a 1.2-megawatt solar generator for some of its backup power. Other panelists talked about the need for renewable energy and other ways to make the data center greener by reducing carbon emissions.

While the panelists agreed that power and cooling remain a small part of the overall IT budget—about 5 percent—the thought of a utility company telling an enterprise that it cant supply more power is enough to make IT administrators reconsider whole policies.

"The CIOs are very concerned when the local power company tells them that cant give the company another power plug," Andreano said.


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