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Green Memory in the News

Every Watt matters

Apr. 5. 2013
Peyman Blumstengel, Green Evangelist at Samsung Semiconductor, outlines why IT Managers and CIOs need to identify and implement the full range of server memory-related energy saving opportunities in the data centre to get measurable operating performance enhancements

Memory has always just been considered as a commodity. Server manufactures and customers used memory to get systems up and running and predominantly decided on the highest density available for a given budget.

These days, enterprises are faced with an increasing amount of data. Real time analysis for fast and sound decision making is becoming a critical competitive advantage. Many services are centralised while data centres have increased in computing power, and end users are enjoying a massive variety in the types of equipment they can use and where.

All this results in the energy consumption of data centres going through the roof. In order to reduce the energy bills while increasing data centre performance, organisations need to find solutions that incorporate technology, facility infrastructure and are not a mere rip-and-replace method.

However, the reality is that while CIOs might know the power bill for the data centre, only a handful actually know where that power is going and what is causing the biggest drain. At our CIO Forum last year, we found that only 5% of CIOs in attendance knew how much energy their IT systems consumed. This supports the findings from our 2011 attendance at CIO Connect in the UK, which found that 85% of CIOs had never seen their energy bill.

The idea of 'going green', aside from being a prominent topic outside the IT industry, is still a daunting task for many data centre managers. There is also a worry that change need to be rolled out throughout an entire division and that suppliers will insist replacing all hardware before any benefits can be seen. This is of course, an overwhelming option, especially with the speed at which technology moves, causing concerns that your new solution will, shortly, be out of date.

The reality however, is far less scary and small changes can be made at the component level, with recent trials conducted by Samsung and Microsoft showing that by moving your memory solutions to a Green product, savings of up to 30% on a server system level can be achieved. Depending on a data centre's PUE this translates into anything between 10% to 20% savings for the entire facility.

Key to prioritising the investment is gaining a performance metric. Typically, organisations use the Power Usage Efficiency (PUE) rating, determining data centre energy efficiency by looking at the amount of power entering a data centre and comparing it to the amount of power used to run the data centre infrastructure. However, optimising the PUE does not automatically bring down the overall power consumption. There is a huge potential saving in the hardware itself.
Working with trusted suppliers and understanding the potential for the next stage of development, a CFO can be confident that the CIO is making smart investment choices and the IT infrastructure is evolving with the technology rather than trying to catch up.

Big Data demands big power

Big Data certainly is one key IT megatrend these days, driving a lot of change into data centre server infrastructures. Typically, a server and storage environment for Big Data is characterised by a significantly higher deployment of memory per server, the factor being 10x and more. For performance reasons, Flash-based storage instead of traditional spinning hard disks add to the overall memory portion, and for a good reason: analyses show that a so-called “green memory configuration” can speed up analytical processing by a factor of 15 whereas energy consumption is reduced by more than 90% when compared to traditional configurations.

According to Gartner, power consumption will increase data centre costs by up to 90%. Moreover, Gartner found that already 12% of all data centre expenditure is currently attributed to energy-related costs.

McKinsey states that energy costs are likely to increase by 16% every year, and are expected to be the fastest rising costs for data centres as companies begin to expand IT infrastructure to support business growth.

The energy consumption challenge that data centre managers (and even IT heads) are facing has a huge impact on the organisational overhead. As the issue is expected to grow over the years, organisations need to think clearly about minimising their power consumption.

Business demands drive a greener data centre strategy

In order to meet business demands, companies need to start taking an active interest in the power consumption of their data centres, I even encourage them to look at their monthly electricity bill.

Once they do, it will soon become clear that organisations need to assess their data centres to then effectively rebuild or upgrade their infrastructure, creating an energy efficient design.

Yet, it's not all bad news as there is wide range of options for reducing the energy consumption. Ranging from improvements to the facilities and infrastructure to highly effective cooling technologies to energy efficient technology adoption. Not only do some of the options allow IT managers to reduce power consumption, but also improve server performance at the same time.

Less heat equals less aging – why data centres are old before their time

What accelerates the problem is the extraordinarily rapid IT growth and an aging data centre infrastructure. Due to the increased power demand, life cycles of data centres have reduced dramatically.

Industry research company IDC found that the average age of a data centre is nine years. Yet due to the extent of companies' IT growth, Gartner pointed out that the actual life expectancy is actually much shorter, stating that data centres over seven years old are obsolete.

These aging data centres are a vast drain on companies' resources, requiring excessive energy supplies and significant operational overheads. They also enforce capacity limits that affect both uptime and flexibility and often have design limitations that constrain the adoption of new, more efficient technologies and applications.

By opting for a green memory solution for data centres, this premature aging process can be stopped as reduced power consumption simply means creating less heat, which in turn has a huge impact on decreasing the life cycle of the products. Heat ages the electrical components and increases the fails cycle time of replacement and therefore the cost. Less heat means less aging, lower replacement service costs and reduced downtime.

External power restrictions drive greener data centres

Power resources to operate data centres are limited: The majority of data centres are built in close proximity to cities, meaning they're planned for a specific power budget.

All bets that energy prices are going to fall in the foreseeable future are off, with costs increasing steadily over the past ten years. Although there's no universal statement on power prices over the next decade, companies can expect their bills to increase by up to 15% per year.

How do big players react to these challenges? Google's answer to this is to build data centres where there's access to cheap, reliable power. The locations Google chooses for new data centres show that access to low-cost cooling, in order to reduce power costs, is as significant a decision as proximity to communications.

Google has spent $273 million with the main objective to support the growing 'cloud-based' needs of users' behaviour when it comes to sharing content online. Google has said that even though the cost of the land, buildings and equipment for the centre are obviously a consideration, it is the cooling of the centre which remains the priority. Given that cooling often accounts for about 50% of data centre power consumption, an understandable line of thought.

Yet, it begs the question whether the location of data centres is the only viable way when it comes to drastically reducing energy consumption as you think. Not every company enjoys the flexibility of locating their data centres somewhere on the planet.

The savvy CIO looks inside the box

There are a number of other changes which can be made at a much more basic level and not requiring the significant levels of investment that a brand new data centre necessitates. Many organisations don't realise that memory can be one of the biggest drains on energy. Through working with a trusted supplier, rip-and-replace investment is not needed, but a process of identifying where improvements in energy saving can be made. Making educated decisions at a component level, when the option to upgrade does come around, can make a real difference.

By taking the time to 'look inside the box' a CIO can reduce energy bills by up to 30%, improve efficiency and reliability and all without breaking the bank.