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

Why are we so focused on saving energy in data centers?

After a searing Texas summer with more than two weeks of consecutive 100F degree days, it was refreshing to read Bill Kosik’s blog “Fall Into Data Center Savings” that provides a great overview of how weather affects the efficiency of various data center cooling strategies. The use of outside air for cooling is growing in popularity, and is the primary cooling mechanism for HP’s award winning Wynyard data center in the UK. Intel created a parallel environment that had one side of a blade data center used outside air economizer while the other side used direct expansion (DX) cooling, and saved 67% of the power costs over a 10 month period, and estimated annualized savings of 2.87M USD for a 10MW data center.


Why are we so focused on saving energy in data centers? The Western world has enjoyed reasonably priced power for our factories, offices, homes and vehicles, but there is a very rapidly growing demand from India and China that could change things very quickly. David Gerwitz, in a recent blog, noted that China demand for oil is growing at 8.68% annually, compared to a US growth of a meager 0.34%, and with growth of their middle class the demand could grow to 10.1 billion tons, or 78% of the world’s current capacity within 10 years. China’s demand growth rate in 2000 was 2.46%. The increasing demand will drive energy prices skyward as the capacity cannot grow as rapidly, so it is prudent to look at ways to increase operational and energy efficiency as a way to conserve energy and reduce costs.


We should not solely focus on energy, but should include all resources, include land and water usage. Corporate data centers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but they are typically large permanent structures that are capital intensive, time consuming to build, and difficult to expand. Shipping container-based data centers, like HP’s Performance Optimized Datacenter (POD), provide a means to rapidly grow capacity in a matter of weeks, compared with an 18-24 month build for a conventional data center. Recently, HP’s Critical Facilities Services team released the patent pending HP Flexible Data Center concept that fits in between POD and traditional data centers in speed of deployment, flexibility and cost by using industrial components deployed in modules that can expand as demand increases, conserving capital, land and energy.   

Voodoo and Hoodoo, why is IT still a craft industry?

A day of odd connections today. I was looking at an article about HP’s latest prefabricated data center offering and musing on why the IT world is still more of a craft than a industry. Here I am comparing the way IT solutions are defined and built with the pre-industrial craft processes where every joint, screw and nail were individually crafted rather than being of uniform size.


It’s the same today still in the IT world. There is no common single standard for describing server performance. Instead each manufacturer encourages the standards that favour the unique features of their hardware.  The strange thing is that we have managed to make a virtue of this rather than seeing it for the problem it actually is. This thought can from an unrelated product description I saw of a book on Amazon.


“Voodoo and Hoodoo tells how these spiritual descendents of African medicine men and sorcerers lay tricks and work their magic and explains the hold these practices have had on their believers, from their Old World origins until today.”

We are so used to the way It has developed as a craft that we question as often as we should it’s value. Here I refer back to Nicholas Carr’s article “IT doesn’t matter”.


As we move towards the service based model for Cloud Computing, it becomes more important to focus on the delivery of the business service not on the hardware itself. As Carr put it “they become commodity inputs”. For Cloud to become as ubiquitous as electricity we will need to take a more industrialized and standardised view of the hardware and of the services we deliver to end-users.  This applies as all levels of the possible service abstraction levels of the cloud, so server, virtual environment, data center and the cloud itself. Thus I do see that moving to a standardized, industrialized, model for building data centres recognise that the value is not in the data centre itself but in being able to quickly and reliably create consumable services that can be delivered into the cloud.

Labels: Data centers
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About the Author(s)
  • Steve Simske is an HP Fellow and Director in the Printing and Content Delivery Lab in Hewlett-Packard Labs, and is the Director and Chief Technologist for the HP Labs Security Printing and Imaging program.
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