The Disappearing Datacenter….

By Christian Belady
General Manager of Datacenter Advanced Development

Sustainability is an interesting thing.   It really means so many things to so many people but I really like the way it is defined in Wikipedia; “Sustainability is the capacity to endure.”  Clearly, when taken in the context of the environment we are as an industry taking steps to try to be sustainable. If you look at the executive brief we are releasing today and the story on “Microsoft’s Quest for Greater Efficiency in the Cloud”, I talk about the metrics that have been introduced recently by the Green Grid such as CUE and WUE to add to the already globally recognized metric of PUE.   These are really great metrics to improve sustainability in our industry segment and as you all know I am a huge supporter of these metrics. However, the problem long term with these metrics is that they only optimize the datacenter piece in the complete ecosystem.   This is why over the past couple years, my main focus (and the focus of my new team) has been looking at the whole cloud ecosystem as an opportunity for optimization.  How does that change how we look at things? How can we integrate across what have been different industry segments to achieve greater efficiencies and an even more sustainable cloud ecosystem than we could have ever imagined? For example, I introduce the idea of data plants, which is the integration of power plants and datacenters.  This concept can substantially improve efficiency by eliminating the need for transmission lines, substations, and transformers (as well as the associated voltage losses) that we see in today’s power distribution ecosystem.  With data plants we distribute a form of energy called data in a completely different grid called the network. Looking at it this way, we are essentially taking another step in the evolution of refining the energy being distributed.  

  • In the 1800s – coal was the primary form of energy for industry
  • In the 1900s – electricity (a processed form of coal) was the form of energy for industry
  • In the 2000s – data (a processed form of electricity) will be the form energy for industry

The point is that if we look at data as a form of energy, how does that change what we are doing today?  When I talk about the disappearing datacenter, what I really mean is that it will disappear as we know it through integration and drive unprecedented levels of efficiency gain….and this can only be done at the scale of the cloud.


Comments (3)

  1. Anonymous says:

    Agree with your points….part of the integration story is simplification, and the elimination of parts. Thanks.


  2. Roy Zeighami says:

    i like the analogy.  Nicholas Carr used this same example in The Big Switch.  It's isn't just about about the efficiency of the individual elements but it is about how many elements you need.  Just like virtualization let you share physical servers, cloud computing helps you share whole datacenters and have less "stuff"

    Individual focus on server efficiency leads to some of the silly examples we have all seen in the industry.  People haggle over a 1% difference in server power for servers that go into datacenters that have a 5% utilization.  That kind of flawed thinking wouldn't be accepted in any other industry.  Imagine buying a fleet of corporate cars and obsessing over their fuel use as they sat idle in a parking lot!

  3. Mark Peterson (OSIsoft) says:

    I like the concept of data as a form of energy for industry. Data is a frequently overlooked asset within many organisations and drawing the relationship between data and the energy required to create it as well as the hidden value that is hidden within it (as yet another source of energy for industry) is useful. Organisations that encourage people to change the way they view and use of data to drive efficiencies will find it easier to differentiate from the those that don't.

    "If you can not measure it, you can not improve it"

    Lord Kelvin, 1824-1907.

    Widely known for realising that there was a lower limit to temperature, absolute zero. Absolute temperatures are stated in units of kelvin in his honour.

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