The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

Was Thomas Edison right about power to the data centre?

Back at the beginning of the last century, there was a great War of Currents debate about how power should be delivered to consumers. Thomas Edison was behind a DC based delivery system, and Westinghouse advocated an AC based approach. Clearly Westinghouse won because of the advantages of transporting AC over long distances.


In '05 and '06, there was a great deal of discussion about the inefficiencies of the current approach of taking power into the data center, running it through a Fault Tolerant System, stepping it down to the voltage needed, usually multiple times. Each of these steps causes a drop in efficiency. Some folks believe this loss of power could be as high as 40%. A few blogs have written about it as well.


This could all be eliminated by turning the incoming power to DC once and then running the power to the computer room via DC. There are problems with this approach as well.


In these times where efficiency, higher power demands on the data centre, and high power costs are on everyone's lips, any reduction in power transmission loss should be viewed as having social, environmental and economic benefits.


This solution has been discussed for quite a while, but data centers still seemed to be built the old fashion way in most companies. Options for purchase of servers and other devices with DC only power supplies need to be more economical and reliable. Standards in this space (e.g., 12V vs. 45V...) are being developed. It appears to be the wave of the future for the larger data centers so we need to start asking about our options.

Anonymous | ‎02-14-2007 07:47 AM

Charlie, it is nice to see a focus on energy. But really the bigger outsourcers have such a huge opporutnities to optimize more than fuel - so many economies of scale as I write below on Utility Computing...hope EDS gets serious about it

Anonymous | ‎02-14-2007 02:56 PM

Vinnie, thanks for the post. I had an entry a few weeks ago about the alignment between SaaS and Utility computing. In your blog entry you talked about charging by units of work consumed. One of my concerns is that the user views this problem quite differently than most IT organizations.

The units of work should be relevant to the consumer of the service if at all possible.

I didn't see anything in your entry about power consumption and conservation in the data centre though.

Anonymous | ‎02-15-2007 11:42 AM

For infraastructure IT more than business user would like be the consumer, so their metrics in GB, CPU cycles, tickets etc would be logical unit of measure, I would suggest

On energy, you are correct -my note did not specifically mention it, but  a utility should be far more fuel effcient too compared to a bunch of distrbuted processing locations today...

Anonymous | ‎02-16-2007 04:48 AM

Vinnie, there is no doubt in my mind that a utility approach would be significantly more resource efficient (power, personnel, information).  The industry needs to make it meaningful though.

I disagree that infrastructure IT will be the end target for adoption. They are essentially displaced by these kinds of efforts. Sure there are business operations personnel focused on ensuring effective delivery... but is that really the role of today's infrastructure IT organization. I don't think so.

I believe that using CPU cycles is actually meaningless to the user organization. They have offloaded that work so they don't need to understand it, not so they can continue to be billed by it. I believe a new set of commodity measures are required.

Unfortunately, if you give someone a unit that is outside their domain the only control they have is to turn it down (use less). The unit is not focused on solving business problems (e.g. shipping more cars or producing more cheese) and is almost totally disconnected with the value delivered. A new approach and new metrics will be required to make it meaningful, since CPU cycles... solves the IT organization's problem, not the consumers. We need to get out of the box we created.

Anonymous | ‎02-16-2007 03:49 PM

Charlie, I do not disagree with you, but so many outsourcing deals had so little corelation to value delivered in last decade, that my recommendation to clients is to buy tactically and in measurable units of consumption. Most utilities don't talk to me about - hey you used the units for TiVo versus heating versus ovens. Whch was my point in my post. Too much customization and conversation about 'value add' happens in too many outsourcing deals. Make money from scale, not customization.  

About IT - you will always have some lean IT. Probably savvy in specific areas like help desk, LAN, storage etc but tasked with managing vendors not doing it themselves. Unrealistic to expect business users to know what to expect or manage in infrastructure areas.

Anonymous | ‎02-17-2007 04:21 AM

Vinnie, that's my point exactly. Too much effort is focused on defining things at an IT commodity level, with the expectation that the business user purchaser will understand the relationship at that level. It is unrealistic to expect a business user to know what to expect or manage, so they will either need to staff up with people who understand that level, be very frustrated with their relationship or develop migrate to a more business focused/trusted relationship over time.

Anonymous | ‎02-17-2007 04:09 PM

ok, which business SLAs do you propose and how do they then tie back to usage of CPU cycles, storage, LAN ports, help desk calls, desk side installs etc? When I help look at BPO or apps support, no question the metrics are much more process specific, but I am struggling with those around infrastructure. And while it suits EDS to sell BP, Apps maintenance/support and ITO clients are wary of giving everything to a single supplier...

Anonymous | ‎02-20-2007 06:34 AM

I don't quite understand the last leap you made. I thought we were talking about utility computing and its future as more of a SaaS based mechanism. I would not think you'd charge for items outside the data centre like desk side installs... The pricing mechansim would need to encompass an undersranding of a certain number of help desk calls, CPU utilization... If the user goes far afield from the normal range of usage there will be issues.

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