Aaron Rallo

Efficient Data Center

– Aaron Rallo is the founder and CEO of TSO Logic, says:

Spring is here, and that of course means spring cleaning.

Hopefully, your data center doesn’t have much in the way of dust bunnies to clean up. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty to tidy and organize – especially when you start looking at idle servers, application efficiency, and energy costs (which are on the rise).

Let’s dive right into four areas where new tools and new ways of thinking are helping data centers to improve reporting, find inefficiencies, and radically cut energy costs.

1. Look deeper

Spring cleaning starts with flinging open the cupboards and closets to take proper stock of the situation. At a data center, that means collecting deep data, and then spinning that data into usable performance and efficiency metrics.

As data centers become ever more virtualized, and as the range of software-based management solutions grows, operators are finding themselves equipped with much deeper insight into their energy consumption and efficiency. Increasingly, this measurement and monitoring is happening not only at the facility or infrastructure level, but also at the level of individual servers and applications.

All of this means that we have more tools in our toolkit than ever before, and we’re able to dig deeper into questions of application efficiency, server performance, capacity and utilization levels, and granular costs per transaction, per user, per application, and so on.

2. Share that knowledge

Once you’ve taken stock, it’s time to make a proper to-do list.

With your more detailed performance metrics in hand, your next task is to get people to actually pay attention to them, set goals around them, provide incentives for achieving those goals, and make informed decisions based on the facts. In other words, to elevate your lowly metrics to the status of true key performance indicators (KPIs).

The best way to do that is with a straightforward and easily accessible dashboard where your whole team—from the folks in the server room, to the people building the applications, to the execs in the board room—can all look at the same up-to-date data center KPIs.

As one example, eBay realized a long time ago that energy has a major impact on their cost to process every transaction, and thus their bottom line. To get everyone looking at the same KPIs eBay uses a simple dashboard to share their performance; anyone can take a look at dse.ebay.com.

3. Get rid of dead weight

When you’re digging boxes out of the back of the closet, you always come across stuff that you know you should have tossed a long time ago.

By aligning per server energy usage with applications and application performance you can easily determine the computing power to energy consumption ratio of legacy servers, which in turn makes it much simpler to make a business case for strategic upgrades or virtualization. It’s also a great way to find those comatose servers that haven’t processed a transaction in a long time but keep quietly drawing power.

4. Start optimizing

With the worst of the clutter out of the way, you can really start cleaning up the place.

Once you’ve gotten rid of the worst energy offenders in your data center, and you’ve selected the KPIs that are most important to your specific business needs and infrastructure, you can start focusing on long-term gains:

  • Boosting margins by reducing energy costs per transaction and per transaction type.
  • Refining how you price your services or service level agreements based on a more accurate picture of costs and margins.
  • Developing better, more efficient applications, or replacing inefficient legacy applications that are dragging down your bottom line.
  • Radically reducing power wasted on idle servers by using intelligent power management solutions. (In a typical data center with low utilization rates, this can mean cutting your server power costs by as much as half.)

With the tools now available, none of these are difficult. But they do require long-term commitment to keeping a tidy house that gets more and more efficient with each passing year. Your reward will be steady gains that will keep your operations competitive well into the future.

About the Author

Aaron Rallo is the founder and CEO of TSO Logic.  Aaron has spent the last 15 years building and managing large-scale transactional solutions for online retailers, with both hands-on and C-level responsibility in data centers around the world.  He can be reached at arallo@tsologic.com.