The Inflection Point for Efficiency in the Data Center

 

By Christian Belady,
Principal Infrastructure Architect
Global Foundation Services, Microsoft Corporation

The Gartner graph (included in Part 1 of this blog) also made me think about the fact-- that had the same survey been asked 5 years ago-- it would have shown100 percent are either looking at internal metrics and/or not considering anything when it comes to energy or efficiency.  In my opinion, it wasn’t until 2006 that the industry really did go through a paradigm shift.  While there were a few of us who had been pushing efficient computing approaches for over a decade), we had limited success in moving the industry until 2006.  What happened in 2006?  I think the notion of establishing an industry efficiency metric and data center metrics were born. I thought it would be interesting to recap those milestones based on my perspective:

January 31 2006: Conference on Enterprise Servers and Data Centers: Opportunities for Energy Savings

 

This conference really brought Efficiency on the main stage of our industry. Andrew Fanara’s (EPA) presence was the key to waking up the industry and his goal was to drive metrics for delivering efficiency into computing. This (to me) was a pivotal day since it marked the first time we collectively got together as an industry to address efficiency.  It was no longer a voice of a few, thanks to Andrew. 

March 27, 2006: Energy Efficiency Server Benchmark Technical Workshop                                                   

This event was a follow-up meeting to the EPA conference in January. I led a work group on the Applicability of Benchmarks to the real world” with members from HP, Intel, AMD, LBNL, Cisco, Dell, Sun, Rumsey Engineers and others.  The group concluded that a benchmark should be developed with power on the y-axis and workload on the x-axis.  This recommendation is what drove the publication of the paper later that year that Jon Koomey spearheaded (with many of us in the industry co-authoring) titled “Server Energy Measurement Protocol”.  This paper was the foundation of what SPECpower is today.

April 23-26, 2006:  High-Density Computing: Trends, Challenges, Benefits, Costs, and Solutions                              

This symposium was the Uptime Institute’s first and it focused on Density trends.  However, it was this conference where I first presented an Efficiency Metric called PUE which seemed to capture the attention of many of the attendees.  As a result, I published a paper on PUE with my good friend Chris Malone later in the year at the Digital Power Forum.  At this same conference, AMD’s Larry Vertal and Bruce Shaw sat down with Paul Perez (my former VP) and I to discuss the idea of starting a consortium called the Green Grid. Ten months later the Green Grid was officially announced with one of its first whitepapers evangelizing metrics and in particular PUE.

These three events to me really started it all.  If you look at the Gartner graph, you can argue that all of the metrics were seeded in these three events and are really making an impact today.

So our industry woke up in 2006 and while the Gartner graph does show we have work ahead of us, I do think we can say that in less than four years the industry has made great strides (and perhaps I shouldn’t complain so much!).

/cb

For more information on Microsoft's datacenter best practices visit our external web site at www.globalfoundationservices.com and check out Rob Bernard's feature “Using the Power of IT to Drive Environmental Sustainability” that highlights the effort Microsoft is making in environmental sustainability, as well as how that directly relates to what world leaders are currently discussing in Copenhagen for the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009.