Running out of juice

Running out of juice

Something has to give. The increased uptake of blade servers and SAN storage systems is creating serious power density issues in the datacentre – some say of crisis proportions.

In senior management circles the word ‘crisis’ is not one to be bandied about lightly, especially in front of journalists. But when you hear it slipping out in private conversations and on the edges of high-level meetings you know something has to be amiss. For Australian datacentres the word is increasingly being tied to the availability of power, or more aptly the lack of it.

The accelerated uptake of blade servers and SAN storage systems has created pressing power density issues in the datacentre. So much so that some observers suggest we may just find ourselves up the proverbial creek without a paddle if newer technologies, mindsets and sources of power aren’t adopted, and quickly. With datacentre operators bracing themselves for a sharp rise in electricity costs as the national Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) kicks off, the potential for a crisis has deepened.

“We’ve seen a couple of situations where datacentre managers don’t have the power supply to put in extra equipment and they have nowhere to move,” IDC associate research director for green IT and services, Philip Carter, said. “There’s a state of panic for these datacentre operators, particularly in Australia.

“When you see the build out of some of the datacentres around Canberra, for example, to try and alleviate that problem, it shows you that it’s in crisis stage with supply constraints of electricity.”

And with data growth predicted to continue exponentially – IDC forecasts 988 billion gigabytes (or exabytes) of data will be created by 2010 – there are fears we won’t be able to keep up.

“It’s ridiculous how fast that growth is happening,” Carter said.

“To be honest I don’t think going down the virtualisation route and the consolidation that goes with that is going to keep up with that explosion in data.”

While organisations that do all of the right planning and put in appropriate strategies might get on top of these power issues, Carter said few organisations have done audits of their overall power consumption.

“I don’t think it’s going to be easy for these guys to manage it with the build out in IT infrastructure needed to cater for it [data growth] because the space and power constraints are not going to allow them to do that,” he said. “Virtualisation does bring definite benefits but it needs to be in line with a mentality switch, organisation alignment, putting proper metrics in place and monitoring them.”

So why and how has this situation arisen? For Carter, the ‘always on’ culture that pervades IT environments is largely to blame.

“If you think about the way organisations have run their computing environment it is, ‘ok, we’ll leave it on just in case it might be used’. That would be like leaving the oven on at home in case you wanted to warm something up,” he said. “The vendors have been pushing that because it supports their sales. They want more and more technology to be used.”

Traditionally, when people were building out their infrastructure to support business needs, it was about performance and making sure the capacity to compute was there, Carter said.

“There was no other thinking about these hidden costs of power and space,” he said.

“Now, all of a sudden it has come to light and so there needs to be a change in mentality in terms of the way people view how technologies are being used and procured.”

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