An IT Problem?
If it sounds like this all veers beyond IT's traditional purview, Ogilvy's Riazi says it's about time. Data center responsibilities historically have been split; facilities managed the physical space, while the CIO managed the operations within that space. But that division of duties has become antiquated. "There are certain conversations that need to take place between IT and facilities about how we manage these facilities more efficiently," she says. "I think that relationship needs to get much tighter."
That need to bridge the gap between IT and facilities was key in the design of HP Labs' dynamic smart cooling technology. In the past, Patel says, data center managers might get admonished for bringing down servers, but no one ever got punished for wasting power. Today, it's possible to get into trouble for either, a change he says shows the need for IT and facilities to develop an integrated view of the data center.
Patel's team at HP is attempting to deliver that view by building a data center architecture that will monitor the entire data center, from the chip level up to the cooling system. In theory, a data center employee could allot power and cooling on a granular level and schedule workloads to make the most out of server resources while minimizing the strain on the power and cooling systems. Gartner's Bell says that's the right approach, and one he expects to be widely available in a few years: "We'll see a more universal management system that connects with the power structure and manages infrastructure and workload in concert, and in real time." But whether IT executives will want to invest in such granular control is debatable. Count Thomas Weisel's Fiore among those who desire such tools. "I'd like to direct my air conditioning to where I need it most," he says.
Conversely, Deloitte & Touche's Quinlan says he can't justify devoting resources to something that isn't a core competency. "We want to run a good data center, but we don't want to get sophisticated about cooling," he says. "We don't have time. We want to focus on services for our clients. If I get to the point where I have to worry about those things on such a minute level, it's time for me to think about outsourcing my data center to people who do that kind of stuff for a living."
Roberts, the Data Center Institute board member, says most of the IT executives he talks to fall in Quinlan's camp. Advances such as HP's cooling technology may be highly effective, he says, but in most cases, CIOs simply won't see them as practical. "Most folks have a huge investment in their equipment already. They're probably not going to make additional investments in the next three to five years." But Ogilvy's Riazi sees that perspective as myopic. She says IT executives have to see beyond their mission statements and bottom lines, and start to think as global citizens.
"It's an irresponsible position to take, and I expect more from CIOs," she says. "Having an operation that reduces carbon emissions is the responsibility of every CIO." To that end, Riazi says Ogilvy started tracking the energy consumption and carbon emissions of its servers this year, with an eye toward making its data centers as "green" as possible in the future. This puts Riazi on the cutting edge when it comes to the greening of data centers. Most CIOs can't specify how much power their data centers consume, and thus can't establish how much they waste. But that's likely to change as the end-to-end management tools Gartner's Bell foresees becoming commonplace let IT executives track the whereabouts of every last watt. Those who've embraced all the emerging data center tricks at their disposal will like what they see. Those who haven't may just find themselves in trouble with their bosses—whether it's for servers going down or for power wasted. If such ominous prospects don't send CIOs scrambling for answers, nothing will.