Gigabytes Versus Kilowatts

Gigabytes Versus Kilowatts

Handling the energy requirements of increased computing power.

One of the unfortunate corollaries of Moore's Law is that as computing power grows, so do power requirements and heat dissipation.

In years gone by, big bulky servers sat in roomy racks on a raised floor, with central air-conditioning keeping temperatures under control. But now, with blade-servers in high-density environments and ever-increasing demands for mission-critical 24x7x365 operation, IT professionals find themselves under the gun.

The "E-word": efficiency

"Most organizations now regard their IT infrastructure as the backbone of their business operations, said Yau Kan, senior VP, Fujitsu Hong Kong. "However, CIOs and their IT teams constantly have to balance their requirements for higher efficiency and better performance with the realities of tighter budgets."

Yau said consolidation is a powerful tool for enterprises to unlock value from their IT infrastructure. "In Hong Kong, we see a strong push to centralize servers and consolidate datacenters from our customers: to pull servers and persistent data storage out of branch offices and centralize them in a small number of corporate datacenters," he said. "IT managers, especially in Hong Kong, are investing more in space-saving infrastructure advances such as blade servers in to maximize computational power within the datacenters."

Power consumption is a major concern among Hong Kong customers, said Felix See, general manager of Technology Solutions Group, HP Hong Kong. "More servers are multi-core now," he said, "so they generate a lot of heat, and this is a growing problem." See said that power demands can lead to overheated servers, burned-out fuses, and even batteries catching fire.

"When you have 10-20 blade servers in one rack, that's a dense environment," said See, "and [that environment] often also includes storage. In our products, we use a cooling-fan design we call the "Intelligent Cooling improves the efficiency of the cooling." See added that this system operates using "an LCD panel like a printer [that] shows the temperature of the infrastructure. It's a very different concept [for server-control] and easy to scale out."

The traditional cooling aid-raised-flooring-is not always the best approach, said Peter Hannaford, director of business development, availability enhancement group, EMEA, APC. He explained that it reduces space at the top of the room (a problem in Hong Kong where ceilings are often low) and can also be wrongly used to store cabling or other items which interfere with air flow.

Hannaford added that education was key to his firm's efforts: "A few PowerPoint slides showing CFD (computational fluid dynamics) help demonstrate the TCO of energy-savings. Our philosophy is to move the cooling units closer to the source of the heat: the servers. By doing so, we find the 'APC sweet spot': it's modular so it's scalable, and it doesn't rely on raised flooring."

Going virtual

"Storage systems continue to become more complex as the amount of stored data and storage equipment increases [but] there has been little increase in the number of storage administrators in Hong Kong," said Yau. "The management workload of administrators has increased [and] due to the relentless growth of user data, the networks that are used to store this data are becoming larger and more complicated. Server management has become a burden to system administrators, and there's an urgent need to simplify it.

Yau said that "virtualization is expected to ease the burden of server management because it provides simplified, logical views of complicated storage and network systems. Server virtualization can ensure more efficient deployment of IT resources and higher productivity in storage, network and workload management. The Fujitsu chief said that according to his firm's forecasts, virtualization can improve server utilization by 80 percent, improve server availability, help with disaster recovery, testing and development, and centralize server administration.

"One of the prominent trends we saw in 2006 was virtualization," said HP's See. "All different types of virtualization, including servers and storage...local telco customers are using it as well as utility companies." See added that virtualization appeals to these clients because of crisis-incidents, including "virus attacks and stoppages." According to See, virtualization technology makes it easier for firms like telcos and utilities to adjust to changes.

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