Informal group to encourage idea exchange on best practices, lessons learned and solutions for improved electronic stewardship at facilities in government facilities and elsewhere.
Data Centers and Power Usage
September 24, 2012 at 1:53 pm #169799
Quick: what industry uses 30 billion watts of energy (the equivalent of the output of about 30 nuclear power plants), wastes 90% of that and pollutes the environment by belching diesel exhaust, all while cloaked in near total secrecy?
You’re using it, actually. Behold the data centers that power the Internet:
“It’s staggering for most people, even people in the industry, to understand the numbers, the sheer size of these systems,” said Peter Gross, who helped design hundreds of data centers. “A single data center can take more power than a medium-size town.”
Energy efficiency varies widely from company to company. But at the request of The Times, the consulting firm McKinsey & Company analyzed energy use by data centers and found that, on average, they were using only 6 percent to 12 percent of the electricity powering their servers to perform computations. The rest was essentially used to keep servers idling and ready in case of a surge in activity that could slow or crash their operations.
A server is a sort of bulked-up desktop computer, minus a screen and keyboard, that contains chips to process data. The study sampled about 20,000 servers in about 70 large data centers spanning the commercial gamut: drug companies, military contractors, banks, media companies and government agencies.
“This is an industry dirty secret, and no one wants to be the first to say mea culpa,” said a senior industry executive who asked not to be identified to protect his company’s reputation. “If we were a manufacturing industry, we’d be out of business straightaway.”
September 25, 2012 at 10:47 am #169805
Additional information from Ms. Smith’s blog on Network World:
Microsoft data center pollutes, then wastes millions of watts to avoid paying fine
Microsoft likes to say it’s green, but the New York Times reported that Microsoft data center generators were belching black smoke. The company was also reportedly not very environmentally friendly after over-estimating its utility usage. To avoid paying a $210,000 penalty, Microsoft’s data center in Quincy wasted millions of watts of electricity.
Microsoft and other tech giants like to promote the environmentally-friendly idea of green IT. For example, Microsoft has promoted the top 10 business practices for environmentally sustainable data centers. Microsoft lawyer Eric Laschever said, “Data centers are the cloud” and when Microsoft Global Foundations Services Blog talked about the company’s energy and efficiency evolution to power the cloud, it mentioned its cloud services like Bing, hosted services on Azure, Office 365, Xbox Live and Hotmail that are powered by data centers. The Redmond giant says when business applications are moved to the cloud, “energy use and the applications’ carbon footprint per user are reduced by at least 30%.” In fact, Microsoft says it is committed to achieving carbon neutrality beginning in fiscal year 2013 which began on July 1, 2012.
September 26, 2012 at 6:31 pm #169803
This week, the New York Times ran a series of articles about data center power use (and abuse) “Power, Pollution and the Internet” (http://nyti.ms/Ojd9BV) and “Data Barns in a Farm Town, Gobbling Power and Flexing Muscle” (http://nyti.ms/RQDb0a). Among the claims made in the articles were that data centers were “only using 6 to 12 % of the energy powering their servers to deliver useful computation. Like a lot of media broadsides, the reality is more complex than the dramatic claims made in these articles. Technically they are correct in claiming that of the electricity going to a server, only a very small fraction is used to perform useful work, but this dramatic claim is not a fair representation of the overall efficiency picture. The Times analysis fails to take into consideration that not all of the power in the data center goes to servers, so the claim of 6% efficiency of the servers is not representative of the real operational efficiency of the complete data center.
On the other hand, while I think the Times chooses drama over even-keeled reporting, the actual picture for even a well-run data center is not as good as its proponents would claim. Consider:
A new data center with a PUE of 1.2 (very efficient), with 83% of the power going to IT workloads.
Then assume that 60% of the remaining power goes to servers (storage and network get the rest), for a net of almost 50% of the power going into servers. If the servers are running at an average utilization of 10%, then only 10% of 50%, or 5% of the power is actually going to real IT processing. Of course, the real “IT number” is the server + plus storage + network, so depending on how you account for them, the IT usage could be as high as 38% (.83*.4 + .05).
Not good, but certainly better than the implication that more than 90% of the power is disappearing into thin air.
The other major flaw in the reasoning is the assumption that these efficiencies, which the Times claims are representative of a survey of “70 large data centers spanning the commercial gamut: drug companies, military contractors, banks, media companies and government agencies.” I’m certainly not going to argue that its data is bad, but a sample of this nature does not represent the kinds of large Internet/Cloud data ceners that the articles focus on. The sample almost certainly includes a number of corporate data centers with markedly less efficient power and cooling infrastructure, and running a very heterogeneous enterprise workload that probably does exhibit an overall low utilization for the servers. I would assert that the large Internet data centers cited in the article have some significant differences from the assortment that were included in the survey:
These data centers run at much higher utilization than your average enterprise DC because the servers and the entire data centers are designed around a very few very large workloads whose characteristics are well understood in advance.
They use more power-efficient servers (these people drive the development of ULP CPUS and stripped-down configurations. Facebook, for example, has separate configurations optimized for its core applications, for the memchache tier, and for file service. Some very large operators have even gone so far as to design their own custom servers with specialized power supplies and battery backup systems unlike the commercial mainstream.
These data centers have among the world’s most efficient cooling and power management systems and are typically operated more efficiently than the average enterprise data center.
September 26, 2012 at 6:40 pm #169801
More COMMENTARY this times from Forbes
Why The New York Times Story ‘Power, Pollution, And The Internet’ Is A Sloppy Failure
In its story published today, “Power, Pollution, and the Internet”, The New York Times failed in its mission to accurately explain the important issue of improving efficient use of power in data centers, and instead wrote a confused and incomplete article that is unworthy of its reputation.
It would shock me if John Markoff, the dean of tech reporters at the Times, had read this story carefully, given its many glaring misconceptions, omissions, and distortions.
The biggest problem with story is the confusion of “the Internet Industry”, which is not really clearly defined in the article, and the world of Information Technology (IT), that is the use of technology by businesses. The subtitle of the story, “Industry Wastes Vasts Amounts of Electricity, Belying Image”, implies that “The Internet” is somehow projecting a green image but actually is wasting power.
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