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Do you know why this happened?
Brill: No, but it looks as if it's recurring in 2008. One of the reasons may be that we're adding new servers at a rate of around 16 percent. If you don't uninstall the old ones, your consumption will go up by the rate at which you're adding servers.
The biggest opportunity for savings is by uninstalling the equipment that has become technologically obsolete. Up to 30 percent of the servers in a typical data center are no longer in active production, but they're still consuming energy. They need to be turned off, removed from the racks and disposed of.
Is that just poor planning on the part of IT organizations?
Brill: Unfortunately, efficiency is not cool. Unless senior executives demand the ability to uninstall hardware, the tendency will be to leave the old stuff installed.
Would turning PCs and other equipment off at night save a lot of energy?
Brill: Absolutely. There are 160 work hours in a month, but in actual hours, there are almost three times that, 24 hours times 30. By turning equipment off when it's not needed, you can reduce power consumption by that enormous ratio.
We need to become more energy-conscious, and we can do it either for a green reason or for profitability. A single server costing around $2,500 consumes almost $750 in electricity per year.
In the Northeast, that could be significantly higher, though in the Northwest, where they're getting power from a hydro-dam at three cents per kilowatt hour, it would be less. That's a lot of money to have something running when it's not doing anything, especially when it cost only $2,500 to begin with.
Have any data centers run out of power?
Brill: In our survey, we found that our members are, on average, about 56 percent utilized--that is, the load as a ratio of their capacity is about 56 percent. But many members that are growing at a 25 percent-plus annual compound rate are up in the 80 percent to 90 percent range, so they've got to build more data-center capacity.
In fact, the biggest boom in data-center construction is going on right now. Many people may think this is a one-time catch-up effort, but I don't believe that's true. Unless the fundamentals change, every major company will need to build a new data center every several years.
Facility costs are currently running at 8 percent of IT's budget. The IT budget is growing at the rate of about 6 percent per year, and the facility's expenses are growing at 16 percent a year. So there's a fundamental incompatibility because the growth in facilities expenses will crowd out other IT initiatives.
That also changes the way you have to budget for IT. Investing more in capital expenditures means less money is available for application development.
Brill: Yes, and I don't think that's good. We don't want to see all this money going into facilities, because it doesn't add to the productivity of IT. What does add to the productivity of IT is application development. If this course were to continue, there would have to be other cuts elsewhere in IT to make room for the growth of facilities and their cost. This is a senior-executive issue.