Editorial: What Is Data Center Efficiency?
On March 31st, the Wall Street Journal reported, “iPhone, which maker Apple Inc. says has captured 28% of the U.S. smart-phone market seems to be loved by everyone - everyone, that is, except those who work in corporate information-technology departments.” The article goes on say that the efforts of IT groups to ban these devices “may be a losing effort.”
The Journal regularly re-visits the battle between corporate users and IT departments and often implies that users have the upper hand. The Journal is not alone, though. One of its articles inspired Ross J. Pettit to write, “IT has to have a much deeper appreciation of the business. Unless it can do that, IT will be managed by the business as a cost to be controlled, regulated to “utility” status no different from electricity and water.”
In this issue, Christian Belady of Microsoft writes about Jevons’ Paradox and how it applies to the U.S. EPA’s goal of curbing energy use in our data centers. Christian rightly notes that the EPA has focused its efforts on increasing energy efficiency in data centers, assuming that increased efficiency will reduce overall load and the carbon footprint of our data centers.
Jevons’ Paradox leads Christian to conclude that increased efficiency could reduce the transaction cost of running many applications and lead to greater, albeit more energy-intensive, data center loads. Enterprises that make these changes should thrive, but they may also find themselves under even greater pressure to reduce their carbon footprints-and with fewer tools.
Unfortunately, what I often hear about the operation of the data center sounds more like a competition between IT and facilities for control. I think the point can be made that both IT and facilities must become adept at responding to forces greater themselves, greater, in fact, than the CIO or even the CEO. Even the high-powered executives occupying the C level know that they must respond to internal customers, external customers, market forces, political realities, and stockholders. Make no mistake; these realities - not Moore’s Law - drive the calls for greening data centers and making them more efficient. Given the physical limits of today’s data centers and the our national electrical grid, those who actual operate data centers can expect the demands for change to grow louder and to come into even greater conflict. There will be no time for turf wars.
Mission Critical has developed an online education program (see p. 63) in conjunction with Power Management Concepts, LLC (PMC) to meet the needs of PEs who work in mission critical facilities and require PDHs to maintain licensure. These courses are a good way to bring your skills up to date in order to meet future challenges.
Many in the industry understand the need to bring about dramatic change in how data centers are designed and operated, and I do see incremental change at some of the more sophisticated facilities. Still I am greatly concerned that the conservative approach favored in most data center operations may eventually prove to be the riskiest approach.