Starting at the Top...
By mrbill on Oct 08, 2009
To back up a couple steps and frame these entries a bit... There are three basic categories of efficiency in the datacenter: Supply, Demand, and Business (or Process). All three, and all of the subcategories under them, should be tracked.
Obviously, supply components have cost. Reducing the consumption and the waste of the supply components is often the focus of efficiency efforts. We see tons of marketing and geek-journal information about new, super-efficient power distribution systems, transformer-less datacenter designs, and there is much effort in the industry to make these pieces less wasteful. For those who haven't really dabbled in the field, you would be amazed at how much power is wasted between "the pole and the plug". UPS systems, PDU's, power conversions, etc. all mean loss. Loss means power that you are paying for that never makes it to a useful function of processing.
Downside, the supply categories are difficult and usually expensive to change (including labor and asset categories). The real efficiency gains that are often overlooked or given less priority are in demand and business. Demand includes the workloads and software running in your IT environment. Can you imagine the cost savings if you were about to "compress" your consumption by 30%? Maybe 50%? Capacity management, virtualization, and less obvious things (to most people) like fixing bad and under-performing code can be huge wins.
In my experience, customers (and "efficiency consultants") rarely look at the business processes, goals, and overall flow that drives the processing in the first place. Often the flow of demands, and the scoping of demands from the business can have huge impact on consumption. Do you really need 50,000 batch jobs that represent every report that has ever been run on the system? Do you really need to save those results? Do you really need to run and distribute all those reports, and to how many people? How many manual processes are involved in your IT management where the answer is always "yes", or the process is mostly repeatable and could be automated?
Examining supply, demand and business in a structured fashion, and asking "why are we doing that anyway?" can have huge returns with minimal investment. There is always "low hanging fruit" in efficiency. It is just plain dumb to keep throwing money away for the sake of tradition, habit, and legacy operations.