Preview Data Center 2.0 – The Sustainable Data Center

Data Center 2.0: The Sustainable Data Center is an in-depth look into the steps needed toData Center 2.0 transform modern-day data centers into sustainable entities.

To get an impression of the book you can read the prologue right here.

Prologue

In large parts of the world, computers, Internet services, mobile communication, and cloud computing have become a part of our daily lives, professional and private. Information and communication technology has invaded our life and is recognized as a crucial enabler of economic and social activities across all sectors of our society. The opportunity of anytime, anywhere being connected to communicate and interact and to exchange data is changing the world.

During the last two decades, a digital information infrastructure has been created whose functioning is critical to our society, governmental, and business processes and services, which depend on computers. Data centers, buildings to house computer servers along with network and storage systems, are a crucial part of this critical digital infrastructure. They are the physical manifestation of the digital economy and the virtual and digital information infrastructure, were data is processed, stored, and transmitted.

A data center is a very peculiar and special place. It is the place were different worlds meet each other. It is a place where organizational (and individual) information needs and demands are translated in bits and bytes that are subsequently translated in electrons that are moved around the world. It is the place where the business, IT, and energy worlds come together. Jointly they form a jigsaw puzzle of stakeholders with different and sometimes conflicting interests and objectives that are hard to manage and to control.

Electricity is the foundation of all digital information processing and digital services that are mostly provided from data centers. The quality and availability of the data center stands or falls with the quality and availability of the power supply to the data center.

For data centers, the observation is made that the annualized costs of power-related infrastructure has, in some cases, grown to equal the annualized capital costs of the IT equipment itself. Data centers have reached the point that the electricity costs of a server over its lifetime will equal or pass the price of the hardware. Also, it is estimated that data centers are responsible for about 2% of the total world electricity consumption.

It is therefore easy to understand why the topic of electricity usage of data centers is a subject of discussion.

Electricity is still mostly generated with fossil fuel-based primary energy resources such as coal, gas, and oil. But this carbon-constrained power sector is under pressure. Resilience to a changing climate makes the decarburization of these energy sources mandatory to ensure sustainability.

From different parts of society the sustainability of data centers is questioned. Energy efficiency and indirect CO2 emissions caused by the consumption of carbon-based electricity are criticized.

The data center industry is working hard on these issues. According to the common view, it comes down to implementing technical measures. The idea is that more efficient power usage of servers, storage and network components, improved utilization, and better power and cooling management in data centers will solve the problems.

This idea can be questioned. Data centers are part of complex supply chains and have many stakeholders with differing perspectives, incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements and complex interdependencies. In this situation there is no simple, clear definition of data center efficiency, and there is no simple right or optimal solution.

According to the Brundtland Commision of the United Nations, sustainability is “to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Given the fact that we are living in a world with limited resources and the demand for digital infrastructure is growing exponentially, there will be limits that will be encountered. The limiting factor to future economic development is the availability and the functioning of natural capital. Therefore, we need a new and better industrial model.

Creating sustainable data centers is not a technical problem but an economic problem to be solved.

A sustainable data center should be environmentally viable, economically equitable, and socially bearable.

This book takes a conceptual approach to the subject of data centers and sustainability. The proposition of the book is that we must fundamentally rethink the “data center equation” of “people, planet, profit” in order to become sustainable.

The scope of this search goes beyond the walls of the data center itself. Given the great potential of information technology to transform today’s society into one characterized by sustainability what is the position of data centers?

The data center is the place where it all comes together: energy, IT, and societal demands and needs.

Sustainable data centers have a great potential to help society to optimize the use of resources and to eliminate or reduce wastes of capital, human labor and energy.

The idea is that a sustainable data center is based on economics, organization, people and technology. This book offers at least multiple views and aspects on sustainable data centers to allow readers to gain a better understanding and provoke thoughts on how to create sustainable data centers.

Creating a sustainable data center calls for a multidisciplinary approach and for different views and perspectives in order to obtain a good understanding of what is at stake.

The solution is, at the end of the day, a question of commitment.

Data Center 2.0 – The Sustainable Data Center (Update)

Data Center 2.0: The Sustainable Data Center is an in-depth look into the steps needed to transform modern-day data centers into sustainable entities. The book will be published at the beginning of the summer.

To get an impression see the following slide deck.

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Data Center 2.0 – The Sustainable Data Center

DC20_SustainableDataCenter
Currently busy with the final steps to get the forthcoming book ‘Data Center 2.0 – The Sustainable Data Center’ (ISBN 978-1499224689) published at the beginning of the summer.

Some quotes from the book:

“A data center is a very peculiar and special place. It is the place where different worlds meet each other. A place where organizational (and individual) information needs and demands are translated in bits and bytes that are subsequently translated in electrons that are moved around the world. It is the place where the business, IT and energy world come together. Jointly they form a jigsaw puzzle of stakeholders with different and sometimes conflicting interests and objectives that are hard to manage and to control.Data Center 2.0

Given the great potential of Information Technology to transform today’s society into one characterised by sustainability what is the position of data centers?

……..

The data center is the place were it all comes together: energy, IT and societal demands and needs.

…….

A sustainable data center should be environmentally viable, economically equitable, and socially bearable. To become sustainable, the data center industry must free itself from the shackles of 19th century based ideas and concepts of production. They are too simple for our 21th century world.

The combination of service-dominant logic and cradle-to-cradle makes it possible to create a sustainability data center industry.

Creating sustainable data centers is not a technical problem but an economic problem to be solved.”

The book takes a conceptual approach on the subject of data centers and sustainability. It offers at least multiple views and aspects on sustainable data centers to allow readers to gain a better understanding and provoke thoughts on how to create sustainable data centers.

The book has already received endorsements of Paul-Francois Cattier Global Senior, Vice President Data Center of Schneider Electric and John Post, Managing Director of Foundation  Green IT Amsterdam region.

Table of contents

1 Prologue
2 Signs Of The Time
3 Data Centers, 21th Century Factories
4 Data Centers A Critical Infrastructure
5 Data Centers And The IT Supply Chain
6 The Core Processes Of A Data Center
7 Externalities
8 A Look At Data Center Management
9 Data Center Analysis
10 Data Center Monitoring and Control
11 The Willingness To Change
12 On The Move: Data Center 1.5
13 IT Is Transforming Now!
14 Dominant Logic Under Pressure
15 Away From The Dominant Logic
16 A New Industrial Model
17 Data Center 2.0

Needed: a Six Sigma Datacenter

As usual there was a lot of discussion on cooling and energy efficiency at the yearly DatacenterDynamics conference in Amsterdam last week. Finding point solutions to be efficient and/or creating redundancy to circumvent possible technical risks. But is this the way to go to optimise a complex IT supply chain?

In a lot of industries statistical quality management methods are used to improve the quality of process outputs by identifying and removing the causes of defects (errors) and minimising variability in manufacturing and business processes. One of the more popular methods is Six Sigma which utilises the DMAIC phases Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control to improve processes.

But when Eddie Desouza of Enlogic asked the audience (of one of the tracks at DatacenterDynamics) who was using the Six Sigma method to improve their datacenters only three people raised their hand out of hundred. Eddie Desouza was advocating the use of Six Sigma to improve the efficiency and the quality of a datacenter. He made the observation that datacenters do apply substantial upfront reliability analysis and invest in costly redundant systems, but rarely commit to data-driven continuous improvement philosophies. In other words focussing on fixing errors instead of focussing on optimising the chain by reducing unwanted variability and reducing the associated costs of poor quality.

He also, rightly, emphasised that datacenter operators should use a system approach instead of a component approach in optimising the datacenter. The internal datacenter supply chain is as strong as its weakest link and there is also the risk of sub-optimisation.

An example of the necessity to use a system approach and to use industry methods like Six Sigma can be found in a blog post of Alex Benik about “the sorry state of server utilization”. He refers to some reports from the past five years:

• A McKinsey study in 2008 pegging data-center utilization at roughly 6 percent.

• A Gartner report from 2012 putting industry wide utilization rate at 12 percent.

• An Accenture paper sampling a small number on Amazon EC2 machines finding 7 percent utilization over the course of a week.

• Charts and quote from Google, which show three-month average utilization rates for 20,000 server clusters. A typical cluster spent most of its time running between 20-40 percent of capacity, and the highest utilization cluster reaches such heights (about 75 percent) only because it’s doing batch work.

Or take a look from another source, the diagram below of the Green Grid:

 UnusedServers

Why is this overlooked? Why isn’t there a debate about this weak link, this huge under-utilisation of servers and as a result the huge energy wasting? Why focussing on cooling, UPS, etc. if we have this weak link in the datacenter?

As showed in another blog post, saving 1 unit power consumption in information processing saves us about 98 units in the upstream of the power supply chain (that is up to the power plant).

So it is very nice to have a discussion about the energy efficiency of datacenter facility components but what is it worth if you have this “sorry state of server utilisation” and that it isn’t noticed and/or that no action is taken on this? Eddie Desouza of Enlogic is right, datacenters need Six Sigma. It would help if datacenter operators would embrace a system approach. Focussing on the complete internal  datacenter supply chain instead of a component approach, and using statistical quality management methods to improve efficiency and quality as in other industries.

Data centers vulnerable to climate change?

CoolingThere is a vulnerable relationship between the environment, the power grid and data centers.  For example last year in Texas, U.S.A, a state with data centers of several notable IT companies, including WordPress.Com, Cisco, Rackspace and Host Gator, nearly escaped rolling blackouts because of extreme weather conditions. Extreme heat led to extreme electricity demand for cooling equipment and the extreme drought led to production problems for the power generators because of shortage of cooling water. And this is not the only example. During recent warm, dry summers in 2003, 2006 and 2009 several thermoelectric power plants in Europe were forced to reduce production, because of restricted availability of cooling water.

A recent study, published in Nature Climate Change, projects an increasing vulnerability of electrical supplies in the US and Europe because of climate-change.

The combined impacts of lower summer river flows and higher river water temperatures and the legislative restrictions on the amount of water withdrawn for cooling and temperatures of the water discharged can lead to cooling-water scarcity.

In the United States and Europe, at present 91% and 78% of the total electricity is produced by thermo-electric (nuclear and fossil-fuelled) power plants, which directly depend on the availability and temperature of water resources for cooling.

Worldwide, freshwater withdrawals for cooling of thermo-electric power plants are highest in North America (224 km3/yr), followed by Europe (121 km3/yr), which together represent about 86% of the global thermoelectric water withdrawals.

The research shows a likely decrease in thermoelectric power generating capacity of between 6-19% in Europe and 4-16% in the United States for the period 2031-2060, due to lack of cooling-water. The likelihood of extreme (>90%) reductions in thermoelectric power generation will, on average, increase by a factor of three.

Disruption of power supply is a significant concern for the data center sector. Reduced production, or temporary shutdown, of several thermoelectric power plants, resulting in increased electricity prices and raising concerns about future energy security in a changing climate.

Data Center stakeholders should closely watch the current Climate Change discussions and Power Grid developments and make power or electricity management as one of their core work processes.

Power markets, Power prices and Data Centres in Europe

Based on a report I wrote for Broadgroup I was invited speaker at Data Centres 2012, a European data centre conference whose theme is “energizing the future of Information Technology delivery,” scheduled for May 23-24 in Nice, France.

Some thoughts and high lights from the report  ‘Power market, Power prices and data centres in Europe’  (which is available from BroadGroup) were shared in this presentation.

The conference included 100 speakers, three conference theatres, and five master classes. The attendance was more than 750 professionals from 30 different countries. The two-day event offered insight, learning, networking, marketing and business opportunities across data centre and cloud markets in Europe. To get an impression of this event have a look at the blog entries from Michael Manos with some impressions.

Outline of the given presentation ‘Power markets, Power prices and Data Centres in Europe’

The quality and availability of the data center stands or falls with the quality and availability of the power supply to the data center. Besides knowledge of the retail prices of electricity it is also necessary to have a good understanding of the current trends in electricity production and consumption. At the end data, centers have to compete with many other consumers to get access and supply of scarce energy sources. Therefore it is also important to have an overview about current developments and trends in the electricity supply chain and electricity infrastructure.

Key take aways …

Data Center stakeholders should closely watch the current Power Grid developments in Europe

and

Data Center operators must make Power or Electricity management as one of their core work processes.

Power markets, power prices and data centers 1

Power markets, power prices and data centers 2

As we all know the quality and availability of the data center stands or falls with the quality and availability of the power delivered by the power grid to the data center.


Power markets, power prices and data centers 3

Power markets, power prices and data centers 4

Power markets, power prices and data centers 5

Power markets, power prices and data centers 6

Power markets, power prices and data centers 8

Power markets, power prices and data centers 8

Power markets, power prices and data centers 9

Power markets, power prices and data centers 10

Power markets, power prices and data centers 11

The IEA’s estimates are that the amount of money required for the implementation of the necessary investments is close to 1900 billion euro!

Japan Power Grid crisis: countdown for shutdown

Hokkaido Electric Power Company has started with the shut down of reactor N0. 3 of the Tomari atomic power plant. By Sunday, the unit of 912 MW will officially come offline.Tomari nuclear power plant
Although the shut down is due for its regular maintenance checkup this is a dramatic event for Japan. It is the last of Japan’s 54 nuclear reactors that will be switched off and then Japan will be completely without nuclear power.

Until last year, before the Fukushima accident, Japan was planning to generate half its electricity from nuclear energy by 2030. But now in one year time about 50 gigawatts of nuclear power plant capacity has been switched off, that is about 30% of the electricity generation in Japan.

The government already projects a 5% power shortage for Tokyo, while power companies predict a 16% power shortfall in western Japan, which includes the major industrial city of Osaka.

Unsurprisingly, this loss of electricity generation in Japan is leading to massive changes. Much of the capacity that has been lost or suspended has been replaced by carbon-heavy fossil fuels generating thermal power. Oil, coal and gas now generate about nearly 90 percent of Japan’s electricity, with hydropower accounting for about 8 percent and other renewables (solar, wind, etc.) making up the balance. The International Energy Agency estimates shutting all nuclear plants increases oil demand by 465000 barrels a day to 4.5 million barrels a day, raising Japan’s daily costs by about $100 million.

The business sector starts to feel the consequences of the growing dependence on fossil fuels. Tokyo Electric Power Company faced heavy criticism when it announced that it would increase rates starting from the first of April .The Japan Information Technology Services Industry Association in late March demanded the hike be postponed but the electricity supplier said it had been facing with mounting costs for fossil fuels to run thermal plants because all of its nuclear reactors were shut.

On top of this Japan is also facing another problem. Without nuclear power, Japan is projected to produce an additional 180 million-210 million tons of emissions this fiscal year compared to the base year of 1990, when emissions totaled 1.261 billion tons. That wipes out a significant chunk of reductions Japan achieved earlier. Officials believe Japan can still barely meet its commitment under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce emissions during the five-year period through 2012 by an average of 6 percent from 1990 levels.

To stimulate the use of alternative energy sources, the government is easing restrictions on land use for solar and wind power. It also is relaxing regulations on small hydropower projects and regulations on drilling for geothermal energy in national parks. More crucially, last week it approved feed-in tariffs that are expected to spur investment by guaranteeing higher returns for renewable than for conventional energy. From July, utilities will be required to buy electricity from renewable energy from providers at a rate of 42 yen ($0.52) per kilowatt hour (kWh) for solar energy, 23 yen/kWh for wind power and 30-35 yen/kWh for small-scale hydropower. These preferential rates will apply for 10 to 20 years depending on the energy source.

Just like last year changes can also be expected on the demand side by including the weekend and night operation of factories to spread the electricity load, and much less use of air conditioning.

It will be a close match to get power supply and demand equation right and data center providers shall be fighting again to prevent rolling black outs this summer.