Friday, August 10, 2007

Next Generation Data Center

I talked to a few customers at the Next Generation Data Center expo who had one very interesting observation. While there is a lot of talk today about the the design of the next generation data center, how it optimizes space, how it handles cooling, how it has a lower power consumption profile (or adapts power consumption to load), how it minimizes heat output, how water cooled heat exchangers reduce cooling costs, etc., there are no good templates, recommendations, or guidelines. IBM Global Business Services does provide a contract rate for designing data centers with most of these in mind, based on your lab size, your power constraints, your cooling constraints, etc., but everything is still a one-off design and there are still a lot of tools missing along the way.

It *is* clear, however, that space, power, and cooling are still primary concerns, and the normal constraints of price and performance are not released very much if at all. There are little things coming that will help with this, such as powertop which will help optimize applications and workloads a bit for power consumption. However, that is only a drop in the bucket compared to optimizing data centers for power consumption or cooling. There are some mechanisms in use with workload consolidation such as IBM's recent announcement with System Z which reduce costs in terms of power, cooling, systems administration, while increasing application availability and throughput monitoring.

However, it is starting to look like the holy grail for large data centers involves a combination of software metric measurements of power consumption and heat generation, combined with the software to move workloads around, reduce power while meeting service level agreements, and powering machines or portions of machines on and off on demand. Most of that software does not exist today, and what does exist isn't yet targetted at managing a full data center that many corporations use today. I believe this will be a key area to watch over the next year or three as more and more companies get on the Green bandwagon.

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