Archive for the ‘datacentre power issues’ Category

Is walking the answer to global warming?

12/08/2009

When I lived in the United States I was somewhat addicted to the Tennessee Volunteers college football team, an addiction which has since been replaced by Watford FC and England rugby union in my adopted home of London.  Going to football games in Tennessee is like no other experience in the world as the stadium seats 110,000 people, and Tennesseeans view their football team as being just about the most important thing on the planet.  Tales of weddings being arranged around key match dates are not uncommon, and I greatly enjoyed each and every time I went to a match.  Two things that always left a huge impression on me were the noise the crowd made and the amount of energy expended by people walking to and from the stadium.  The decibel levels of the crowd surpass that of a 747 airliner taking off [didn’t think I would send out a view without an aviation reference, now did you?] and it has been estimated that if the footfalls of the crowd were captured for one match alone …it could power Knoxville, Tennessee for three days.  Interestingly, scientists are currently developing technologies which could capture heel strike power in high human traffic areas.  Engineers who have modelled the effects of the technology at Victoria Underground station in central London have calculated that the 34,000 travellers passing through every hour could power 6,500 lightbulbs.  One station alone …now imagine the power generated by capturing footfall at all of the Tube stations, and we could be well on our way to reducing dependence on fossil fuels et al for power generation.

What does this have to do with data storage and protection?

Investing money into developing foot strike mini-generators means that power is becoming a real issue.  I know of major UK businesses investigating moving their datacentres to Iceland to make use of the geothermal power and natural cooling there.  Iceland is volcanically active and makes use of this to produce power virtually for free …indeed, Iceland will be power independent by 2050.  Oil prices continue to rise so UK companies are taking datacentre power and cooling costs very seriously indeed.  The inefficient use of technology and continued growth of unstructured data largely contribute and exacerbate datacentre power and cooling issues.  Server vendors have realised this and have been producing blade servers for quite a while, and technologies such as VMware, Microsoft Hyper V, and Parallels enable customers to get much higher utilisation out of their server environments whilst reducing the server footprint in the datacentre.  Remember that for every 100W of power required for a server, you need at least another 70W to cool it.  The more virtual servers you can eke out of a single physical server, the lower the power and cooling costs.

The same is true for storage, but storage consolidation can be somewhat more complicated and sometimes viewed as more disruptive to a business than server virtualisation.  It needn’t be so, however.  Computacenter storage solutions are designed to reduce the storage footprint …indeed, the active managed storage …within a customer datacentre without being disruptive to the business.  Introducing data deduplication, archiving dormant data, consolidating the backup environment to remove large tape powderhorns with virtual tape libraries and much smaller tape libraries, and virtualising the storage infrastructure to ‘pool’ storage are but a few ways that we do this.

Computacenter’s thought leadership in Green Datacentre and the use of return on investment as well as cost benefit analysis models and calculations to justify expenditures which enable Green Datacentres is, in my estimation, unique in the marketplace and miles ahead of our competition.  If you’ll pardon the pun, we shouldn’t hide this light under a bushel …and should strive to make use of this thought leadership when discussing datacentre power and cooling issues.

Challenge your internal customers.  Challenge your vendor partners.

Challenge me and others within Computacenter to speak with you in demonstrable ways aand about topics such as datacentre power and cooling reduction which perhaps our competition are not as doing as this further differentiates Computacenter and our value to you …our customers.

-Matthew

Click here to contact me

The storage black box.

10/08/2009

As many of you may know, I am a bit of an aviation enthusiast.  Yes, okay for those that I have bored with discussions about the fuel consumption of an Airbus A380 versus the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner would say that I’m an airplane geek.  Fair enough.

One of the things that I wondered when I first became seriously interested in airplanes was, if the black box is the only thing guaranteed to survive a crash why don’t they just make the whole plane out of the black box material?  The answer is actually a bit more complicated than you might expect, but the short answer is that it is down to compromises and tradeoffs.  Put simply, the airplane would be too expensive to make and would be far too heavy to fly were it to be made to the same exacting standards and of the same material as the black box.

I have been thinking about these tradeoffs and comprimises a lot recently as we still find ourselves in the perfect storm of a credit crunch, increasing oil prices, and increasing C02 legislation.  As I’m sure you have seen, oil is now topping $139 with the largest two day increases back to back in history, many of the top banks have greatly reduced and changed their mortgage portfolios, and the UK government recently changed the air tax from a per passenger fee to a per plan fee.  Individually these events would be interesting enough, taken together they are likely to have a profound effect on our economy and world both now and in the future.

In such circumstances this will inveitably lead our customers to make compromises.

What does this have to do with data storage and protection?

As we head into H2 for 2009 and through the current recession, we must constantly bear these events and customer needs for compromise [e.g. we’d like to introduce storage consolidation but just can’t afford it….sell me some more disk please!] in mind to ensure that we are uncovering all opportunities and mapping them to the Computacenter end-to-end value proposition and individual point propositions.  No doubt we can certainly help a customer make compromise without sacrificing quality whilst transforming their estate for the better.  Here’s a few ways how.

1. ROI – Our ROI calculators go some way in showing a customer how investment in a CC proposition is not only the right thing to do technically, but also cost effective and generates real cost savings.  Even if a customer hasn’t asked for ROI calculations specifically, remember that we must give the customer what he has asked for in addition to the things he hasn’t asked for.  Storage Consolidation, Storage Virtualisation, and Virtualised Backup Consolidation, and related propositions all have real world and industry proven ROI.  Equally, they give us an opportunity to provide cost underwriting for our customers where required.  Please contact me if you need help calculating ROI for any storage challenges you are working on now or in future.

2. Virtualise, Virtualise Virtualise! – If location, location, location is the mantra of property development virtualisation should surely be the mantra of cost reduction in the datacentre.  Server virtualisation, application virtualisation, desktop virtualisation, and let’s not forget storage virtualisation all have the capacity to reduce the customer datacentre footprint which leads to greatly reduced management costs, power costs, floor space costs, etc.  Please contact me if you need help formulating a virtualisation strategy for any business propositions you are working on now or in future.

3. Data deduplication / File & DB Archiving – 12 to 18 months ago a customer had to engage at the third party level to introduce data deduplication and/or effective file & DB archiving.  Recently we have seen data deduplication moving directy into the storage fabric, directly on to storage hardware, and being included in backup software.  IBM’s acquisition of Diligent, EMC’s acquisition of Data Domain, Symantec’s inclusion of dedupe within their backup suite, and deduplication offerings within major vendor arrays [e.g. Netapp, EMC, IBM, HDS, et al] are but of few of the many examples we now have.  This is great news for us and great news for our customers as well as dedupe and file & DB archiving have real world cost savings associated wtih them.  Please contact me if you need help in presenting data dedupe / file & DB archiving for any storage propositions you are working on now or in future.

4. Reduce the Physical Storage Footprint – The reduction of the physical storage footprint through consolidation represents a very easy way for customers to reduce costs whilst transforming their estate.  The introduction of a virtual tape library with data deduplication abilities into an ageing customer tape backup environment, consolidation of file server shares to a shared storage fabric, and the virtualisation of existing and future storage arrays are but some of the many examples we could cite in this space.  Remember that consolidation leads to a reduction in physical footprint / DC space thus leading to cost savings.  Please contact me if you need help positioning consolidation for any propositions you are working on now or in future.

Finally, what does the future hold for storage in our current economic and environmental climate?  All of the major vendors have recognised that business as usual is anything but and are moving to introduce technologies which will improve storage management, reduce customer costs, and introduce greener equipment.  To wit, I know of a customer in the City who hires two complete datacentre floos for their DR site…one floor to hold the equipment and another floor which remains empty but has all power diverted to the other floor’s equipment.  Not what we would call efficient!

IBM are currently working on new power and cooling technologies for their equipment, EMC are introducing solid state disk and disk ‘spin down’ technologies to reduce power consumption in their equipment, HP’s introduction of Thermal Zone Mapping and Dynamic Smart Cooling…the list grows larger each day and, whilst we remain produly vendor agnostic and solution centric, it is always good to be able to discuss how major vendors are aligning to Computacenter’s market leading Green Datacentre initiatives. (more…)

What comes after books?

14/07/2009

I recently received a Sony eReader [PRS-505] from Mrs. PL and PL Junior for Father’s Day and, knowing me as you probably do by now, I love gadgets and anything technical that will help me save time.  However, I must admit that I was incredibly sceptical when I received the eReader at first.  Now, I had read more than one article which pitted the Sony eReader against the Amazon Kindle and other like devices …but not matter how greatly improved they said the electronic ‘ink’ is which comprises the secret sauce of these eBook readers, I am very much in love with the visceral experience of reading a traditional paper book.  The sound of the pages turning, the smell of the paper, the different fonts each publisher chooses to use, the sense of accomplishment of looking at a 900 page tome and thinking ‘I read that!’ …not easily replicated in the world of eBooks.  I know what you’re saying …but you’re a data guy!  You are constantly banging on about how to increase efficiencies with storage!  Yep, I know …all arguments that Mrs. PL had used with me before when she tried to convert me to the ways of the eReader.

More than that, Mrs. PL also likes to read …a lot …and between the pair of us I suppose I have lost sight of just how cluttered our house has become with books we’ve read.  Always happy to lend or give to a friend, would never dream of throwing a book out.  Throwing away a book is tantamount to sacrilege in both Mrs. PL and my extended families, but I think the warning signs that we had too many books to be sustainable came when we contemplated building PL Junior’s cot out of used books [but you could use a hardening shellac to make the pillars from old hardbacks!] and Mrs. PL looking at five bedroom houses [we live in a 2.5 bedroom house at the moment in North London] …not because we have other little PL Juniors on the way, sadly, but because Mrs. PL was seriously considering converting a bedroom or two into floor to ceiling library space.

Thankfully Mrs. PL was the realistic and rational of our little tribe and made the leap to the eReader …gave me one for Father’s Day so she could guilt me into using it if needs be …and then proceeded to cull our house of better than 80% of the books we’ve read and don’t need any longer.  Fifty seven black bin bags full of books, at last count.  Has it made a difference?  Who knew that we had a dining room?!

What does this have to do with Storage & Data Protection?

I’ve had the eReader for a little over two weeks know and, truth be told …I love it.  Seriously.  It’s not perfect, and it does have some drawbacks [no native support for my MacBook Air …although I have a cunning workaround!] but being able to download the next ten or more books I want to read to the eReader is hugely useful and doesn’t take up any more space than the physical device does already.  Equally, after having used the device for a while, I am utterly convinced that this is the future for many magazines and newspapers …think about it, instant and automated delivery via your existing home or corporate WiFi connection …the device already knows what you have and haven’t read so it can automatically delete/replace based on your preferences …and all without the clutter of unread/read newspapers and magazines [also a bit of a problem in the Yeager household]!

When it comes to data storage, we have a very similar challenge.  Five or more years ago, heck maybe up to only a year ago …simply adding more storage capacity was an oft pursued storage strategy …and deemed perfectly valid when we had shed loads of cheap datacentre space and power wasn’t an issue.  Indeed, in the heady days before the recession many of our customers had a desperate need to stay ahead of their competition and so adding more capacity was the order of the day …trouble was, much of the capacity that was added was tier one / high end / monolithic / enterprise [however you wish to describe it!] storage.  Now, nothing wrong with this type of storage …but we don’t need it for 100% of our infrastructure!  We know that the average customer environment is comprised of 20% structured data [the important stuff …you know, the data which makes us money!] and 80% unstructured [MP3s, old or duplicate spreadsheets, joke emails …you know, the data which COSTS us money to store!].

I don’t think in the span of my career have I seen customers so evenly split into two camps …those that have run out of space and power due to continued purchase and provisioning of high end enterprise storage alone …and those that will.

Now, our solutions aren’t designed to go in and tell customers ‘you’re doing it all wrong!’ or that you need to ‘rip and replace’ …no, our solutions are designed to save customers money whilst helping them utilise assets they already have.  I wouldn’t dream of ever calling someone’s baby ugly, Mr. Burton!  But how do we articulate our solutions in a way which will resonate?

A few examples for those that know they have a problem NOW:

Problem: I’ve run out of datacentre space, my datacentre power is costing me too much …but I need to find more storage space with a tight budget!  And I have been buying nothing but enterprise storage and/or have more than one storage vendor already!

Solution: Let’s look at storage virtualisation such as HDS USPV or HP XP  to help us consolidate without disrupting the production business…we can create virtual storage pools universally available for our server hosts without needing to worry about what vendor badge the existing storage arrays have …migrate to thin provisioning so we only allocate what we are physically using …and give you in year ROI because we can use Zero Page Reclaim [ZPR] to return 30% or more of their existing allocated storage into usable unallocated storage.  And finally we automate the storage provisioning to greatly reduce ongoing manpower costs. Et voila!  Reduced power, cooling, space, and manpower whilst enabling business innovation to continue!

Problem: I’m running out of datacentre space as I’ve too many servers, my power and cooling for the servers is costing me too much, I can’t afford to hire more administrators to look after more servers …but I need to add more servers with a tight budget!

Solution: Let’s look at consolidating all of the existing server shares to one or more NAS devices such as NetApp, HP Lefthand SAN, or IBM N series …we can then create a universal NAS namespace using F5 Acopia so we can manage the NAS devices as one and make the NAS storage universally available for server hosts …and then virtualise the remaining servers with automated provisioning of storage AND servers to greatly reduce ongoing manpower costs.  Et voila!  Reduced power, cooling, space, and manpower whilst enabling business innovation to continue!

Problem: I’ve run out of datacentre space, my datacentre power is costing too much …I need to reduce costs and find more storage space with a tight budget!  And I’d like to have access to tier one functionality as I may need it …but I’d prefer tier three pricing!

Solution: Let’s look at consolidating the storage to a grid storage architecture such as IBM XiV …we can migrate from existing tier one arrays to a grid storage architecture with tier one functionality but at greatly reduced cost, up to 25% of what tier one would normally be in some cases …and it uses SATA drives, which consume 97% less power and cooling over traditional tier one FC drives …whilst also giving us thin provisioning so we only allocate what we are physically using …and give you in year ROI because we can use Zero Page Reclaim [ZPR] to return 30% or more of their existing allocated storage into usable unallocated storage.  And finally we automate the storage provisioning to greatly reduce ongoing manpower costs. Et voila!  Reduced power, cooling, space, and manpower whilst enabling business innovation to continue!

I could give you more examples, but I’m running out of space [and you may be running out of patience!] so I want to talk about the other half of the customer stack …those who haven’t run into the same problems …yet.  What do we say to them?

Well, Mrs. PL and PL  Junior went out and bought me a tool which they knew would allow me to keep only the 20% of books I truly need whilst giving me a much more efficient way to read and store the other 80%.  They knew there was a problem there, although I was loathe to admit it …but am very much loving our ‘newly’ discovered dining room in addition to my eReader!

We need to engage our customers to discuss their business problems now and not wait  until they issue an RFP.  What if they say ‘we’re not bothered about storage optimisation at the moment as enterprise tier one storage from [insert vendor here] is so cheap it’s more cost effective for us to add to our [insert vendor here] arrays’?

Fair enough.  On balance, over the next month or three months or even six months they might be right.  But what about after that?  Do we know what their 20% of structured data is and how fast their storage is growing per annum?  Can we extrapolate these figures to show them when they will run out of datacentre space and/or be consuming more power than a small Yorkshire village?  Can we marry this data to the total cost of ownership manpower costs to show them how expensive this storage will be to maintain in the future?

You bet we can.  And we absolutely should.  We won’t win them all, but I would be surprised if we didn’t find something that we can help them with …automated storage and server provisioning, data deduplication, reducing backup windows, consolidating server shares, virtualising their servers …to name but a few.

I’m up for it if you are … and I bore everyone I meet at cocktail parties, wine tastings, Waitrose, my dry cleaners something silly with how proud I am to work for Computacenter and how insanely great our solutions are.  Let’s get out there and talk to all of our customers about how we can Sharpen Their Business and save them money by optimising their storage now.