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See how TSO Logic
simplifies IT transformation.

Our software platforms remove the guesswork so you can now plan with confidence.

For data centers, energy is opportunity

Posted in: Blog Industry Insight

If you haven’t already read the recent New York Times investigation into energy consumption at data centers, you should. It’s an excellent introduction to the huge problem—and the huge opportunity—that the people who run data centers are facing.

First, the huge problem. The article explains it bluntly:

“Most data centers, by design, consume vast amounts of energy in an incongruously wasteful manner. . . . Online companies typically run their facilities at maximum capacity around the clock, whatever the demand. As a result, data centers can waste 90 percent or more of the electricity they pull off the grid.”

I don’t need to explain why that’s not good news for a company’s bottom line, let alone for the environment and for the cities struggling to keep up with demand for power.

So, how did the industry get this bad?

My own experience

It’s not that I don’t have sympathy for IT administrators and server farm managers. Quite the opposite. For the last 15 years, I’ve been relying on large-scale server farms running in colocation facilities, with all of the anxieties about cost, uptime and availability that go along with that.

It was always easy to add more hardware. When I would consider the revenue that a peak holiday season generates, it seemed to far outweigh the capital expense of yet another server. I wasn’t really considering operating expenses because my colocation facility had me on a fixed power cost structure.

Then, during a negotiation with one of my data center partners, it dawned on me that I was paying for peak power usage all day, every day, 365 days a year. And it wasn’t pocket change.

It just didn’t make sense. My servers weren’t dealing with peak demand every day, and I definitely wasn’t seeing peak transactional revenues every day. Why should I pay for power that isn’t earning me any revenue?

In fact, for many online companies, peak demand might only come once a year—even for a few short hours. It’s called variable workload, and it’s the reason why server farms that run at full capacity 24/7 waste so much money and energy.

Why don’t we just turn the servers off?

Data centers have a tough job. The people who run them always have sensitive Service Level Agreements at the front of their minds, and that means maintaining performance and availability 24/7.

Of course, they can’t just arbitrarily turn servers off—what if there’s an unexpected spike in volume? You wouldn’t want to anger users or miss out on sales revenue because you were trying to save money on electricity.

After my data center provider agreed to give us tiered pricing on our power, I started looking for intelligent solutions to the variable workload problem. I soon found that there wasn’t much out there. I also found out, as the New York Times piece mentions, that it’s been difficult to get data centers to take what they see as a big risk to save energy.

From my own experience, I realized that online companies are going to need a few things before they’re going to adopt energy-saving technologies:

  1. Application-level insight. We have to give the administrators an in-depth view of the real work their applications are doing and how much power they need to do it.
  2. Total confidence. They need to be able to see that there won’t be any impact on uptime, performance, or end-user experience.
  3. Lightweight, simple solutions. Nobody wants to make costly changes to their infrastructure, deploy agents, or constantly update software.
  4. Big financial incentives. The potential cost savings have to make it worth their while.

When we set out to build TSO Logic’s platform, we did it with all of these things in mind. And I’m proud to say that we’ve hit the mark. Remember that huge opportunity I mentioned earlier? This is it.

Aaron Rallo
CEO and Founder of TSO Logic

 

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