Power Hungry Grids!!

I find it ironic that our industry uses Power Generation and Distribution Grids as a metaphor to describe the utility based computing model that is being promoted by vendors and demanded by an increasing number of customers. Actually, it is a reasonable and appropriate analogy. You don't build your own unique power generator for your home or business, and you don't hire a Chief Electrical Officer. Instead you plug into the Power Grid(s)... and leverage standards and scale economics and the variable cost structure of a reliable shared service provider for which you pay for what you consume at a predictable cost per unit. Being a commodity adhering to standards, you can easily switch providers with little or no impact to your operation. You demand a level of service quality, and know what you are willing to pay for that service.

I find it ironic simply because it will take a main artery from the Power Grid to, well, power the Compute Grids being designed. There are plans on drawing boards to increase the compute density of future servers such that a standard 19" datacenter rack will (fully populated with the most dense compute servers) consume up to 25KW of power!! That's huge. Consider a data center floor filled with these racks. You can imagine the engineering challenges associated with extracting that much heat from these blast furnaces. And then, of course, it's up to the datacenter to do something with that all that heat. One customer measured hurricane force chilled air speeds underneath their raised floor tiles! To make matters worse, according to p.20 of this report (see the table below), computer equipment accounts for less than half of the power demand for a typical data center.

The good news is that you'll have an unprecedented amount of compute power on each floor tile, so in theory, you won't need as many racks. Of course, we all know that the demand for compute capability exceeds the supply. On the other hand, the ultimate realization of the utility model suggests that you might not even have your own datacenter. Like your gas, water, electricity, cable, and phone services, the cost of the building, of powering, cooling, and administering the equipment, of security, insurance, disaster recovery, etc, will all be absorbed by the utility provider. You simply pay for the service at a known rate per unit of consumption.

That sure sounds great in theory (unless you are the Chief Integration Officer, or Chief Infrastructure Officer). It'll be fun to watch this play out. And watch IT earn the title: "Information Technology".

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