“With blade servers and high-density servers, we’re packing more and more equipment into a smaller space, and that’s creating heat issues,” says John Welter, vice president of Valtus Imagery Services, a provider of computer-intensive graphical maps. In many cases, blades make it impossible to cool a fully populated room, meaning IT managers need a new datacenter even though the current one is only half full.
Compounding the power problem is the explosive growth of new IT services, as offices heed the call to use IT to automate sales, invoicing, and other business processes. That increases the number of servers in a typical datacenter. And, of course, no discussion of power would be complete without mentioning the price of oil, which has tripled since 2002.
“It’s kind of the perfect storm of IT power consumption,” Murphy says. “You’ve got more applications being consolidated into a smaller space, with chips that are hotter; and the servers using them are taking up less space, and there are more of them together.”
Mouths to feed
The first step in reducing power consumption costs is to take inventory of every piece of equipment on the datacenter floor, paying careful attention to both the amount of power each device consumes and the heat that it dissipates. This survey will allow IT managers to understand what percentage of their datacenter’s available power is being consumed by existing equipment and accurately predict how long it will take until demand outstrips capacity. The results will have a direct bearing on how to proceed. If a datacenter has 18 months before it maxes out, there’s plenty of time to devise a fix. A six-month window, on the other hand, will call for more drastic action.
One of the most obvious ways to reduce energy costs is to buy gear designed with power efficiency in mind. Pick a vendor — AMD, Dell, IBM, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems, or any other — and chances are it has a slew of new products that use fewer kilowatts to get the job done.
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Joyent was able to tame its energy mess by replacing its fleet of old Xeon servers with Sun systems. Approximately 25 of the new boxes, or about 20 percent of its machines, feature the power-efficient Sparc T1 processor. Because of its ability handle 32 threads at a time, Sun executives say the T1 is the processing equivalent of a motor coach that can transport large numbers of passengers for less gas than dozens of smaller vehicles can.