Reflections on The Uptime Institute's 2011 Symposium

Tuesday, May 24, 2011 |
Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of participating in The Uptime Institute's (UI) 2011 Symposium (  This annual gathering has previously focused almost exclusively on issues in data center infrastructure: HVAC, power distribution, and the like.  However, this year the folks at UI added a third program day with a focus on carbon and energy-efficiency issues associated with the "IT load" in the data center; that's what some of us call, "computers."
  1. There are some solidly established data center infrastructure design and implementation best practices that will reduce energy use -- and, thus, carbon emissions -- of that infrastructure. These best practices are most often used in new, large data centers and use of them has not broadly extended down into smaller or older centers. So, there remains room for carbon and energy improvement at that level.
  2. Data center operators and the organizations that actually run the IT equipment in the data centers are almost always in different organizations or even companies. In the case of co-location centers (where the IT organization has a Bring Your Own Servers model and effectively rents rack space & power) there is an even more tenuous connection between infrastructure and IT. This tends to result in a lack of clear motivation for the IT folk to reduce their energy use (e.g., through energy-efficient servers and adopting the power management features now appearing in servers) since they don't see the energy bills in terms of their use. Further, the data center operators have no visibility into what the IT systems are doing and, so, don't see the opportunities for improvements.
  3. Progress made in the past decade on PC power management outside the data center is starting to find its way into the data center. When combined with techniques like server consolidation and virtualization, server power management stands ready to help achieve real reductions in data center server energy use. CSCI member company 1E was at the Symposium and talking about this topic; their "Nightwatchman Server Edition" product is one of the early entries in this move from desktop power management into the data center.
  4. Just as is true elsewhere in the enterprise, the lack of connection between those paying the energy bills and those using the energy is blunting a potentially strong motivation for reductions in energy use. The company departments using desktop systems in office buildings have no visibility into the fact that their on-all-night computers are costing the company money; neither do the IT folk with underused or unused servers using energy and HVAC in the data center. There were a few case studies presented during the week that showed how this lack of connection and visibility can be addressed.
I was on the final panel session of the third day at the Symposium, on the topic of, "The Greening of IT." UI's Andy Lawrence moderated this discussion of "successes, failures, and the future" with Jon Haas (The Green Grid), KC Mares (Silicon Valley Leadership Group), Bruce Myatt (Critical Facilities Round Table), Pitt Turner (Uptime Institute), and yours truly for CSCI. The conversation ranged across topics I've mentioned above, but one thing seemed to be nearly universally agreed: the time has come to drive connections between the "infrastructure" and "IT" populations to make the next-level of progress in reducing energy and environmental impact from data centers.
Now comes the actual doing!

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