Feature: How to cut energy costs at the node

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Feature: How to cut energy costs at the node

Socket-level monitoring is this year’s hot button topic in power management. iTNews takes an in-depth look at how much power your servers are really drawing and the costs involved.

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Data centre power consumption is under the spotlight.

Energy efficiency is one reason for this, but the more pressing issues are capacity, continuity and cost.

Many centres are at their limits in terms of available space and also the amount of power they can draw.

To keep pace with computing growth and ensure continuity of IT services, most IT and centre managers are looking at ways to use power more efficiently and extend the life of their facilities.

Racks – and the data centres that house them – have a finite power envelope, based on in-rack and -room thermodynamics and the physical capacity limits of the grid.

Yet as user growth demands increase, we seem compelled to try to pack more into both.

Rack density has spiralled in recent years. Depending on who you speak to (and believe), seven to 15 kilowatt (kW) densities are bandied around as commonplace – and rack vendors such as Rittal believe seeing 40kW densities aren’t altogether out of the question.

Miniaturisation of the internal server electronics is partly to blame.

It makes smaller but more powerful architecture configurations such as blades possible.

It’s no secret that these types of servers also run hotter and require more cooling (and therefore use more power) than your average volume server.

The addition of more communications equipment into enterprise environments is also contributing to densification.

Network switches and other equipment used to enable Unified Communications, VoIP and video-over-IP are becoming mainstays in the data centre environment.

This appears to be placing further strain on already limited power resources.

The industry is largely in agreement on where power management in the data centre needs to go.

It’s all about measuring the power draw of equipment at the socket or node level, and using that as a baseline to reduce electricity consumption and costs.

Measurement, it could be argued, is the easy part. The challenge for IT managers is what to do with those metrics.

FM versus IT. Fight!

A bit of background first. A philosophical argument is currently raging among vendors over who owns the power bill internally in organisations and as to whether or not facilities managers (FM) and the IT folks have come together to collaboratively reduce power consumption, increase energy efficiency and cut costs.

After all, if CIOs and IT managers don’t see their electricity bill, is there a motive for them to take steps to reduce consumption and costs?

Vendors say yes – for corporate social responsibility if nothing else – but in the industry, opinions are mixed.

Peter Spiteri, senior marketing manager of Emerson Network Power Australia, is adamant that change is here.

“The way to shape behaviour is organisationally – by bringing the IT department under finance [instead of under the CTO],” said Spiteri.

“Large organisations including Emerson have done this. In the past three years we’ve moved all our IT reports up through the finance department.”

He claims that for some CIOs and IT managers, as much as 50 percent of their role is now mandated towards increasing energy efficiency, in addition to maintaining system uptime.

But other commentators are not so sure.

“We’ve just been speaking to Australia’s second or third largest telco and found neither party [FM or IT] was responsible for proactive monitoring of the data centre power consumption,” explained Gary Hull, director A/NZ at Raritan.

“It’s a scenario we see and hear over and over again. Finance is responsible for paying for power, facilities for provisioning it and for continuity, and IT for service delivery and uptime”.

Hull does, however, see the responsibility starting to fall to IT.

“Facilities are typically the UPS level of power. They look at how much power is delivered to the data centre and don’t get visibility beyond that,” said Hull.

“As the [above] scenario changes, that to us presents a real opportunity.”

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