Last week I attended (and was chairman of one of the tracks) of the Power & Cooling conference that was held at 7 and 8 october in London and organized by Broadgroup. In its fifth edition this annual global event is for CIOs, IT and Facilities leaders and Infrastructure executives who share the need for thought-provoking real-time answers to their power and cooling challenges. The participants were this year presented with an extensive and broad program detailing tested and new approaches to power, energy, cooling and Green computing. The conference was driven by the need of companies strive towards CO2 neutrality and to reduce energy consumption and increase efficiencies at every level throughout the data center.
In the presentations and the panel discussions there was much emphasis on the following topics:
– Usage and mis usage of the PUE
– The Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme (CRC)
– The gap between the world of the site infrastructure and the IT infrastructure
– Under utilization of computers / shifting focus to the demand site
– Impact of proper cooling on energy consumption
– Getting the right incentives for the right behavior
– Taking a holistic approach in solving issues
– Choosing the right data center location
From all the presentations it became clear that in fact the problem of energy consumption is not really a technical issue but instead it is an economical and behavior problem that has to be solved.
Presentations of Thom Brouillard of Datacentience, Barry Maidment of Rittal and Jeremy Hartley of eCool showed that the knowledge of rack, row (cold aisle & hot aisle) and room cooling is common knowledge. And for example in the presentation of Stephane Duproz of Telecity Paris about whitening the roof of a data center or the usage of evaporative coolers as presented by Alan Beresford of EcoCooling showed that there are very promising new cooling solutions. New research results as presented by Chunlei Guo, University of Rochester, New York showed the promising cooling capabilities of a new material nicked named ‘black metal’. For power, Shri Karve of APC and Roy Zeighami and Tony Harvey of Cisco demonstrated in their presentations on power quality and power capping the profound knowledge that is available in power consumption. The choice of the data center location is very important. Not only power supply or network capacity plays a role. Choosing the right location can lead to some remarkable symbiosis. Kevin Burton of Parthenon Data Centres told about the symbiosis between agriculture and IT; the tight integration between greenhouses and a datacenter based on complementary needs of warmth and electricity. Or the very innovative approach of 2OC that creates joint ventures with gas network operators around the world to generate low carbon, sustainable energy from the network operators’ pressure reduction stations. Also remarkable was the presentation of Sindre Kvalheim, CEO, Local Host, Norway, exploring the establishment of a very huge data center in a Norwegian underground mine.
If we know so much, why does it go wrong or stated otherwise why don’t we perform better?
It al starts with measuring. Measurement is knowing and by knowing we can manage. So Zahl Limbuwala, chairman of the BCS-DCSG presented about the move to global metrics for data centers. Origin and development of the PUE factor was explained on behalf of the Green Grid by Harkeeret Singh and Vic Smith. But although everyone agreed that PUE helped to focus the discussion and that it is better to start somewhere and having the PUE is better than nothing, there still is work to be done about the right understanding and usage of PUE. Eirikur Hrafnsson, CEO and founder of Greenqloud talked about the misuse (‘greenwashing’) and explained that although the PUE says something about energy efficiency it says nothing about how green you are. This is because the PUE don’t involve the original energy source (wind, gas, coal etc.) in its calculation. Therefore he proposed the use of GPUE instead, by adding an extra factor to the PUE calculation you can see how green your energy consumption is because the carbon emission of the original energy source is incorporated in the calculation. A lot of emphasis is put on technicalities, the supply side so to say. But there is also the demand side, the business information needs and how these needs are transformed in software and IT infrastructure. Joe Palastre CTO of Sentilla Corporation and Harkeeret Singh of Thomson Reuters pointed out that to get things right, in terms of appropriate energy usage, you must also make improvements on the supply side by using appropriate metrics and incentives to drive the organization and thus the IT and the Facility infrastructure departments to the right direction.
Making the energy costs of IT visible to the customer was a common denominator in al the presentations on this conference. This visibility is very much needed to get awareness and the right incentives to improve energy efficiency.