Sometimes you go to presentation after presentation on supposedly innovative IT products, services, and you just wonder where the excitement is because you can't see it. And then twice a year, you sit in on presentations and your imagination starts to spin as you realize you are listening to something that is so exciting you can't wait to tell someone about it.
On February 23rd, Teladata hosted their 3rd all day conference and it was terrific. Since I was hosting a panel, I missed several other presentations but was able to catch the last one of the day with Makesh Khattar of Oracle, Bill Tschudi of LBNL, and Dave Shroyer of Netapp, moderated by Derek Schwartz of Green Data Center Alliance. As usual Makesh analyzed data with a shrewd eye for what is most important, and his remarks were insightful. One of the first things he remarked was, and I agree, that PUE is most valuable as a tool to measure the progress in your own data center, not in a comparison with someone else. So when you hear bragging about a PUE of 1.02, what goes through your mind? My mind says something like, "I am from Missouri, prove it to me..." (although I am not from Missouri but that is an old saying). You can read a better synopsis of the conversation here, by Rich Miller in DataCenterKnowledge. Thank you also to my panelists who were terrific and offered up great examples of stakeholder engagement best practices: John Rodgers of Kaiser Permanente, Joyce Dickerson of Stanford University, and Ralph Renne of NetApp. I think we provided valuable content to our audience.
Yesterday I attended the public day of The Green Grid's Technical Forum in Santa Clara, CA, same location as the previous Teladata conference. What most impressed me was the attention now given to water and carbon - which will earn their own WUE and CUE designations to accompany the PUE one we have come to know and abuse. (see above).The emphasis is now on resource efficiency, not only energy efficiency.
Secondly I was glad to hear Dean Nelson discuss the DataCenter Pulse Chill Off! results - he had presented them also at Teladata but I didn't get to hear them. I find their methodology and commitment to stringent research refreshing. Here is how Rich Miller captured it:
Nelson noted recent research from Data Center Pulse that identified potentially significant power savings from dynamically adjusting the clock speed of CPU processors to match IT workloads. The group’s testing suggests that overclocking and underclocking processors as workloads fluctuate can reduce a server’s energy use by as much as 18 percent.
“There are huge potential reductions (in energy usage) available,” Nelson said. “Why can’t we have control over that chip? Why can’t we have the controls to give us a gas pedal, so that we can throttle up and throttle back?”
Recently released Intel chips already enable that, which brings me to how I spent this morning at a SGI briefing to large customers (NASA, EBay, Facebook, etc.) and what they had to say about clock speed. SGI with technology from former innovative companies Rackable and Copan (companies they acquired), has storage and compute intellectual property that is impressive. But in addition, they are introducing a dashboard called "The SGI Management Center" that allows you to cap power (for demand response applications, and adjust clock speeds in their supercomputing applications where you want to conserve energy as well as provision or patch servers 1000 at a time. This presentation made me remember why I was mesmerized about IT a long time ago - because there was strategy, implementation, vision, and magic all in one two-hour presentation. When CTO Dr. Eng Lim Goh, CTO, logged into his data center from the podiu, using his iPad and started a computation that demanded 16 terrabytes of processing power, the audience just laughed with pleasure at the beauty and the simplicity of the example - and it worked too. When do we need terrabytes and 1000 processors for speedy analysis in real life? The US Post office uses that kind of compute power to sort mail daily and had an ROI in months by identifying fake digital stamps. When I departed, my mind was buzzing with the possibilities of terrabytes of data at my fingertips and the many ways it might be used by each of us to investigate possibilities. By the way, SGI has a strong sustainability philosophy inherent in their product design. Have a green day!