I have been getting complaints that our posts are on the longer side so in order to accommodate the ever shrink attention span of blog readers i will keep this short and to the point (already wasted 3 lines just now…).
let’s start by cutting through the vague, fluffy terminology here. Green is the new black and obviously the euphemism du jour, by saying that we are doing a green data center we are saying it has been wasteful so far and we are looking reduce its costs but give it an ideological facade (how about we call it “the polar bear saving” data center?).
making an existing data center more efficient is a very complex problem, one thing useful that middle-school math taught us was that sometimes the only way to solve a complex problem is by reducing it to a simple problem we can solve and extrapolate from there. in this case let’s look at the daily, universal problem of dieting and weight control and see what we can extrapolate from there to the green data center problem.
in the world of dieting there are three approaches: the first is to try and cut everything we eat in half/tenth and hope to see results in a week. from personal experience we all know that this approach usually holds for a couple of days and ends up in a huge disappointment after a week which translates into a food-binge that gets us to the same place we started (in the best case). the second approach is one that replaces the large fries in our Big Mac + milkshake combo with small fries only to end up surprised at the end of the month that we just lost 1 pound (out of the 200+ we already have) and the third approach is one that aligns your life style, personal suffering thresholds and weight-loss goals to achieve a long term life style change that can be sustained and measured.
Greening the data center isn’t any different, the common approach everyone is taking today is looking for the low hanging fruit in the form of consolidation through virtualization of all the none important applications that no one really cares for or even knows if are still in use. in our analogy, this is really reducing the size of your fries order but not touching the bigmac and shake and the results are the same, you cut some costs but you end finding they are marginal compared to your expectations.
the second aggressive approach we are seeing out there is IT groups setting high expectations of consolidating EVERYTHING, ASAP and expecting to drop costs drastically by next month. this approach ends up like most crash diets, very fast and in a worst position than the one you started with. problems are going to appear in the form of push back form users and application owners complaining about their experience (and in our analogy, we know these guys represent a never-ending appetite for consumption) and each push-back will end in adding larger buffers of errors to the point of giving up all together or gradually finding ourselves eating two orders of trans-fat free onion rings instead of the fries we used to.
so that leaves us with the only sustainable approach to achieve a significantly green data center. this approach takes into account the business or application owners goals and pain thresholds in the form of performance to cost saving trade-offs. organizations trying to approach the green data center in a bottoms up perspective will find wither marginal results or colossal failures.
it is time for Infrastructure groups to open a conversation with the business and start to understand their infrastructure in the context of business process, end-user experience and service level goals. it is only through such conversation that the we can answer questions such as which machines can we sit down, when should we bring them up again or even the simplest sizing question of how much CPU is enough for an application process.
in our experience in the field this approach yields an order of magnitude larger results without compromising the business for which all the infrastructure is there in the first place.
Happy data center diet!