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Uptime Institute mines golden nuggets in the data center

Matt Stansberry
Recent research from The Uptime Institute Inc., shows that power and cooling costs are eating away at financial gains that may come from server technology investments -- to the point that, someday, investing in compute capacity could cost more in power and cooling than the financial gains the new servers bring. Uptime has entitled the research "The Economic Breakdown of Moore's Law".

The group has come up with a series of short-term fixes to help companies stop the bleeding, with little or no capital investment. But the bad news is that it's a one-time deal, a data center Band-Aid that will have to do until hardware vendors introduce radically more energy-efficient servers.

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Uptime's new "golden nuggets" strategy can save companies up to 50% in annual energy costs and even more importantly, defer new data center construction by reclaiming wasted capacity, according to Ken Brill, executive director of Uptime.

Brill said the golden nuggets white paper has become institute's most popular publication ever, surpassing downloads of the group's widely used Tier Rating System.

Uptime's five golden nuggets include:

  • Killing dead servers
  • Enabling power save features on hardware
  • Virtualizing servers
  • Right-sizing servers
  • Improving site infrastructure efficiency

    According to Brill, the lowest hanging fruit is turning off dead servers, machines that are inactive, but still powered up and running. "Our estimates are that 10% to 30% of the servers running are really dead," Brill said.

    Another focus is on selecting more energy-efficient servers with new power-save features and virtualization capabilities. Brill acknowledged recent efforts from server vendors to do more on at the processor level, but he said that the recent energy-efficiency gains are not the revolutionary breakthroughs that are now required to restore the economic productivity of Moore's law.

    "I am an optimist and believer in innovation. Now that industry attention has been focused on energy efficiency, I think things will happen," Brill said. "What we need is a breakthrough that is not already in the chip roadmaps that will reverse the upward climb in [power] density."

    The site infrastructure efficiency nugget is actually a set of recommendations for the facilities side of the data center.

  • Reduce bypass airflow down to 10% with blanking plates, blocking cable cut outs and relocating perforated tiles. (Uptime estimates 60% of the air in a typical computer room does not flow to where it needs to go.)
  • Fully implement all 28 requirements of the hot-aisle/cold-aisle strategy.
  • Recalibrate sensors to reduce dueling cooling units.

    All hands on deck

    IT and facility managers aren't the only ones that need to get involved in improving data center energy efficiency. One of the institute's major initiatives is to bring data center stakeholders together from IT, facilities and the C-level executives into what it calls "Integrated Critical Environment (ICE) Teams."

    Uptime offers suggestions for how C-level executives can help data center managers in the trenches.

  • Participate in benchmarking exercises against companies with similarly scaled IT organizations.
  • Incorporate chargeback for utilities to motivate IT and other business units to select energy efficient systems and to motivate people to turn off old equipment.

    The issue of data center efficiency is on the top of the docket for the 2007 Uptime Institute Symposium, coming up March 4-7 in Orlando, Fla. SearchDataCenter.com will be participating as co-moderators at the symposium.

    Sign up to download the The Uptime Institute's white paper.

    Let us know what you think about the article; e-mail: Matt Stansberry, Site Editor.


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