Power tops the list of CIO Priorities for the Cloud
by Hu Yoshida on Aug 1, 2011
Last week the CIO of a large cloud provider gave me a list of his five strategic challenges for cloud. This list included technology, process, people, financial management, and power.
The key technologies are server and storage virtualization, which have a transforming effect on people and processes. The storage administrator’s role is to transform into a virtualization infrastructure administrator. Today, server virtualization enables the consolidation of many physical applications to virtual servers for immediate cost savings, but at some future time these applications will have to be redesigned and optimized for a shared virtual infrastructure.
While there is still much to be done with technology, process and people, he felt that he has a handle on how to solve these challenges. It’s the last two— financial management and power—that keep him up at night.
On the financial management side, he is trying to transition from project based, one to one, accounting ratios to a shared infrastructure approach. Financial systems are not designed to do this, and cloud requires up front funding and chargeback of shared infrastructure. In addition, there are differences in capital funding, labor, sourcing, and right to use costs, like software licensing and maintenance costs. Beyond financial systems, accounting practices and vendor licensing methods will have to change.
His biggest concern, however, is power.
His storage and applications are exploding, and his power needs are increasing by megawatts per year. In preparation of this increasing demand for power, he extended his power capacity during phase one. Now he is into phase two, actively looking for ways to reclaim power. His third phase, ultimately, is to optimize the power. Without saying, power savings and optimization is a key criteria in his IT investments.
Up until recently, saving power was not as important as capacity and scalability. Adoption of technologies, like server and storage virtualization, dynamic tiering, thin provisioning, and deduplication were based on capacity optimization and consolidation of the infrastructure. While consolidation can save power, it was not the main criteria for selecting these technologies. Today, more and more CIOs are looking to these technologies for power savings.
In addition to these technologies, packaging plays an important role in optimizing the power that is available. Small form factor (SFF), 2.5 inch drives use half the power of 3.5 inch drives. Hitachi VSP further optimizes the use of these SFF drives by repackaging these disks into dense drive modules with 128 SFFdrives in a 19 inch wide 13 U high module. Fans are mounted in front and back, with the front fans pulling in the cold air, and the back fans sucking out the hot air. Using these fans in tandem enables the fans to spin at a much slower speed, which reduces the need for power.
While other storage vendors are also moving to SSF drives for reduced power, they continue to use a standard drawer with all the drives mounted in the front and a number of powerful fans mounted in the back, which suck the air through the drawer from front to back. These fans must run at a high speed in order to do this, and as a result, consume more power than the tandem fans in VSP. They also consume more drawers and rack space, which also requires more power.
Another way VSP packaging reduces power is by the elimination of backup batteries for volatile cache protection, executed through replacing it with SSD protection.
So, while other vendors can help him reclaim power with data reduction technologies like thin provisioning (unless they switch to SFF drives and redesign their packaging), they cannot help this CIO optimize his power.