Change is Driven by Competition and Constraints

I recently participated in a Podcast for with a discussion on “the differences on going green in general IT and going green in HPC” which John West put so eloquently  (go to Episode 2: IT, HPC, and where the twain shall meet at  I found this to be an interesting discussion for several reasons.

First, as many of you know, I have been saying for over a decade now that efficient computing will be a differentiator. I believe this is true now more than ever before.  In this economy, capital resources are constrained to levels organizations have never seen before.  As I stated in the Podcast: that is where the opportunity lies.  I incorrectly quoted my favorite inventor Thomas Edison as saying “Innovation only occurs with constraints.”  What he really said was “Discontent is the first necessity of progress” and it was actually Mike Heffernan (High Tech Visionary) that stated “The absence of constraints is the death of creativity.”  So what I said in the Podcast captures the intent for both of these visionaries.  The constraints the economy has place on IT budgets has driven innovation through necessity. For enterprises and cloud services businesses such as ours, we have to drive costs down since margins are tighter than ever before. Similarly, HPC is facing less funding but its computation needs are exploding -- resulting in focus on efficiency and innovation to meet needs with smaller budgets.  It’s really quite exciting to see businesses being more proactive in this climate.

Second, I have spoken about the fact that at Microsoft, as with our competitors, we are driving towards hyper-efficiency and moving away from acquiring general purpose servers. Clearly our business focus over the past couple of years for our business has been to reduce cost by right sizing to our needs.  Anything that is not needed is stripped to improve efficiency and reduce cost.  I did not think of this before, but Steve Cumings made the statement that HPC is requiring the same. 

Finally, Pat Tiernen said something which I believe is very important.  “If it will improve your business anyway, why not do it.”  He is absolutely right. It’s astounding to me that organizations aren’t naturally trying to become more efficient just for the simple reason that it will drive costs down.  Why is it that utility companies need to be giving incentives for people to save money?  Look at PG&E, I simply applaud Mark Bramfitt for leading the charge in this space.  He gives you money to save money.  What a concept. J 

So in the end, ultimately, the economic constraints put on us as an industry will finally provide the motivations to drive towards efficiency.  It’s not about differentiation any more, it’s about survival.  There is no stronger incentive than that.



Christian Belady, Principal Infrastructure Architect

Global Foundation Services

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