Data centers

08:10 PM
David Hill
David Hill
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May the Power Be With You

Companies such as Power Assure are helping data center operators uncover hidden capacity by accurately measuring energy consumption and finding ways to run systems more efficiently.

Unlocking hidden capacity is nice, but data center owners may have a simpler goal: Can I save money on power and cooling? The answer is yes. Power Assure states that server utilization is still low overall, despite the continuing adoption of consolidating systems and workloads with server virtualization. Low server utilization translates directly into wasted power. The ability to handle peak load management is another area of concern.

The Power Assure technology that is used for determining hidden capacity can also be refocused to look at the proper energy use of IT hardware infrastructure assets. Techniques such as load balancing and server throttling can be evaluated. For example, monitoring and analysis of workloads over time can help direct which servers need to be always on (at a high energy consumption rate) versus which ones can be always available (at a significant energy savings, but at a latency penalty should they be needed).

Power Assure provides a variety of monitoring tools, such as dashboards (that display server status, application load, and power consumption), analysis (what can be done to improve efficiencies based upon actions that can be taken, such as turning off backup servers) and automation (threshold-based alerts and policy-driven actions, such as patch management).

For larger organizations that have two or more data centers that are geographically distributed enough so that they do not share the same power grid, Power Assure may also help clients take advantage of differences in real-time electricity pricing. For example, if a heat wave temporarily raises the price of electricity at one site and if workloads can easily be moved to another site where electricity prices are lower (a big "if," however), then an enterprise may be able to save on electrical costs.

How does Power Assure achieve this? By acting as a software as a service (SaaS) vendor. At its network control center (NOC), the company can capture an enterprise's usage information, as well as utilities' real-time pricing information, and determine/recommend what actions an IT organization should take. This approach could generate significant savings in electrical usage.

Mesabi Musings

When we talk about the movement to the private cloud or other forms of data center transformation, we tend to think of what captures our attention on a daily basis--software, such as applications or server virtualization, or hardware, such as servers, storage and network solutions. Even if you are not an IT operations person who deals directly with your company's facilities organization, you need to be aware of the utility fundamentals that form the backbone of your data center--most notably, the electricity required for powering and cooling.

But measuring, monitoring and managing data center utilities has been mostly a seat-of-the-pants process hobbled by imperfect information. Power Assure is one company that is working to change that to, if not a science, then an engineered approach that enables data-driven decision making. Finding hidden IT capacity means that you have room to grow, can plan better and achieve better results. What may be even more attractive is that with the assistance of Power Assure, you now have the means to enable plans that also help cut existing utility costs. Saving money, which is what efficiency is all about, means that those resources can be put to more productive use.

May the power be with you!

Power Assure is not a client of David Hill and the Mesabi Group.

David Hill is principal of Mesabi Group LLC, which focuses on helping organizations make complex IT infrastructure decisions simpler and easier to understand. He is the author of the book "Data Protection: Governance, Risk Management, and Compliance." View Full Bio
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