This stunning shift is likely to continue for several reasons. Power and cooling costs continue to be a significant proportion of overall server operating costs. Most companies now assess power efficiency when evaluating which server to buy. Server manufacturers can differentiate themselves by improving power efficiency. Furthermore, there's a proliferation of appliances or "engineering stacks" that pull significantly better performance from conventional technology within a given power footprint.
A key underlying reason for increases in compute efficiency is the fact that chipset technologies are increasingly driven by the requirements for consumer mobile devices. One of the most important requirements of the consumer market is improved battery life, which also places a premium on energy-efficient processors. Chip (and power efficiency) advances and designs in the consumer market will flow back into the corporate (server) market. An excellent example is HP's Project Moonshot, which leverages ARM chips, typically used only in consumer devices previously. Expect this power efficiency trend to continue for the next five and possibly the next 10 years.
So how does this propitious trend impact the typical IT shop? For one thing, it reduces the need to build another data center. If you have some buffer room now in your data center and you can move most of your server estate to a private cloud (virtualized, heavily standardized, automated), then you will deliver more compute power with the same number or fewer servers (blue line). You'll see a similar trend in the power consumed (green line).
This analysis assumes 5% to 10% business growth, (translating to a need for a 15% to 20% increase in server performance/capacity). You'll have to employ best practices in capacity and performance management to get the most from your server and storage pools, but the long-term payoff is big. If you don't leverage these technologies and approaches, your future is the red and purple lines on the chart: ever-rising compute and data center costs over the coming years.
By applying these approaches, you can do more than stem the compute cost tide; you can turn it. Have you started this journey? Have you been able to reduce the total number of servers in your environment? Are you able to meet your current and future business needs and growth within your current data center footprint?
What changes or additions to this approach would you make? Drop me a note in the comments or email address below.