At a recent event in San Francisco, Albert Esser, VP of Dell's Data Center Infrastructure Group, and Rick Becker, VP of Software and Solutions in Dells Product Group, offered a presentation on data center productivity to reporters and analysts. The pair discussed numerous data center issues, including power and cooling, server performance, and virtualization, as well as methodologies for businesses to enhance facility and system productivity and improve their competitive advantage.
The challenge for Dell is to help businesses understand that no single strategy can fully capture all potential benefits. To date, many vendors have focused on relatively narrow strategies and solutions. In comparison, Dell believes that organizations are best served by thoroughly assessing the current state of their IT facilities and assets, then making systematic improvements across the data center ecosystem.
Esser began by addressing challenges in two areas: 1) facilities power and cooling; and 2) server utilization. Numerous data centers were built in the 1999-2000 timeframe (in response to the dotcom boom and/or to prepare for Y2K), virtually assuring their inadequacy for the shift toward scale-out computing that has occurred during the past decade. In addition, many companies have pursued a 50 percent compound annual growth rate in IT workloads, which is unsustainable, both economically and from the standpoint of energy provisioning.
Updating facilities power and cooling represents a natural first step for most companies, particularly since data centers typically require about 1 kilowatt of electricity to run the data center for every 1 kW needed to power IT assets. There are also a number of immediate improvements companies can make to save energy. For example, data centers are typically maintained at 65 degrees to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature required to safely operate many traditional enterprise server platforms and to address hot spot problems. In fact, server fans are usually set to engage automatically if temperatures rise above 78 degrees.
But Dell's research found that the company's current-generation servers can safely run at considerably higher temperatures. Further, the company estimates that setting air conditioning to a warmer temperature can result in as much as a 15 percent to 18 percent improvement in facilities' energy usage, delivering significant savings (since an average data center uses about 1,100 kW of electricity annually). That said, while any improvement can be positive, enhancing facilities efficiency offers companies a one-time benefit -- once achieved, there is really nowhere else to go.