Evolving the Data Center

Posted on 10/04/2011 by

Forrest Norrod

In a perfect world, every aspect of the data center ecosystem would be optimized for maximum efficiency and agility.  Every watt of power delivered to the data center would go directly to the computing and storage services that IT departments could dynamically provision for their end customers’ changing needs. Our industry hasn’t yet realized that vision, but we have learned that to get there will require optimization at every level, from the most efficient components up through systems management, to orchestrate a dynamic, virtualized data center. Some of the building blocks include:

– High efficiency components: DRAM, flash, and processors for the highest performance per watt

–  System designs that further optimize power and airflow/cooling

–  Power delivery engineered for efficiency from the utility feed to semiconductors in systems

–  Instrumentation that gives visibility of power consumption and performance along with the tools to manage systems to their ideal state

–  Systems management and orchestration tools to deal with the complexity of a virtualized data center and maintain highest possible utilization with dynamic resource allocation

If you can put all of these elements together, new levels of efficiency can be achieved. One measure of power efficiency of data centers in particular can be dramatically improved: Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE). PUE is the ratio of power delivered to the data center to the power delivered to the IT equipment doing the work – it is often 2.0 or greater in traditional data centers. Putting it another way, in a typical data center for every watt of power delivered to the IT gear, at least another watt is used by the HVAC to keep the servers cool, the transformers and UPS to keep them powered, and the facility lights and other overhead costs. In a perfect world, a PUE ratio of 1.0 would be achieved. But even in today’s evolved data center a PUE of 1.3 or less is absolutely feasible. Recently, Dell has worked with customers to deploy fully optimized data centers with a PUE as low as 1.03, that’s pretty close to our ideal world on that measure.

We are proud to deliver solutions that not only meet industry guidelines and expectations, but often exceed them, as well as define new categories for the rest of the industry to follow. For example, Dell has been well ahead of the curve by recently introducing “Fresh Air” servers, storage, and networking gear capable of operating at 45C, a temperature range unheard of in non-custom solutions. That innovation allows our customers to raise the temperature of their data centers and use outside air to cool them directly, eliminating the need for cooling systems and the power they waste.  We also offer our customers a full range of power-saving options like Samsung Green DDR3 and Green SSD products.

Dell is intensely focused on driving energy efficiency into our products. This is a way of life for us, not a side project. We believe it makes good business sense for our customers, as well as being the environmentally responsible thing to do. We can help customers evaluate their data center strategy holistically and realize a comprehensive solution to help maximize IT productivity, while significantly reducing energy consumption. We call this Energy Smart—our philosophy that is inherent in everything we do, from product design to consultative services. Improving current products, generation after generation, and introducing innovative products and solutions to fill gaps in the market, Dell aspires to lower the PUE of every customer, thereby saving OPEX and CAPEX and freeing up resources to do more with existing resources.

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