Circular IT series - Nutanix: Energy bill-shock must push IT to go greener & leaner
This is a guest post for Computer Weekly’s ‘circular technology economy’ series written by Sammy Zoghlami in his role as SVP EMEA, Nutanix.
Given the fact that we know the ongoing energy crisis is dramatically driving up utility bills and forcing companies to reconsider their existing IT models and even their business models, we need to look at the new balance that is emerging in world markets and global IT stacks.
Reminding us that historically, IT decisions have been based on cost and process – rather than energy efficiency, Zoghlami says that what’s happening to our bills is a reminder of how critical it is that we explore every avenue to reduce the fundamental costs of power consumption.
Let’s say it again out loud – what’s happening with our bills is driving an urgent mandate for sustainability that requires our best thinking and means we need to reconsider IT processes and architectures that have been in standard usage for decades.
So what do we need to know? Zoghlami writes as follows…
Energy consumption and sustainability are suddenly at the pinnacle of corporate agendas thanks to a cocktail of issues.
These issues include: wanting to ensure critical resources are reliably available; cost-saving opportunities; the chance to demonstrate corporate social responsibility (and hence attract and retain talent); regulatory compliance and plain old ethical conduct. With fossil fuels supplies at risk and an uncertain future for replacements, everyone knows it makes sense to protect our sources of power.
The IT industry is in an interesting position with respect to power management and sustainability.
If we see the glass half full, we can point to the incredible ways in which automation has replaced carbon-hungry processes. We can also show how physical media has been replaced by digital and the ways in which supply-chains have been rendered flexible and practical. Going forward, we may also note the scope for radical rethinking of society and commerce, using as an example the Internet of Things (IoT) in smart cities and smart agriculture and an Industry 4.0 model that is far cleaner than the generations preceding it.
Tackling tech toxins
Internally, the IT industry has also done a reasonable job of reducing use of toxins in making computer goods and in recycling. But if we take the glass-half-empty model we surely also need to acknowledge the way the datacentres have, by stealth over the years, become of concern as sources of carbon emissions.
Datacentres have usually been reckoned to account for about two per cent of US emissions: a figure that is close to that for aviation although perhaps a number that doesn’t appear too immediately scary.
But here’s the catch.
The rush to live and work digitally is leading to soaring demand for computing of all types: all those IoT devices, smart watches, smartphones, VR headsets and so on are all reporting in somewhere and that is leading to a boom in datacentre construction. Tech researcher Anders Andrae suggests that datacentres alone could account for 33 percent of all ICT electricity consumption by 2025. The challenge is exacerbated by the fact that for many years now, companies have run their own datacentres on an inefficient basis, providing the power capacity for surges in demand and worst-case-scenario disaster recovery, backup and archiving.
Excessive cooling is uncool
Worse, too many CIOs have tolerated very low rates of hardware utilisation (sometimes sub-10 per cent) and are spending as much on cooling as on powering server farms and associated networking and storage gear. From elevator-sized enterprise storage boxes to non-virtualised infrastructure and systems running while processes are idle, we’ve put up with an embarrassing suboptimal environment.
Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) scores have been measured for many years but many remain laggardly. As engineers, progressive thinkers and innovators, we are obligated to look for more efficient solutions.
One productive sustainability angle to pursue is in evaluating the types of hardware deployed in datacentre computing. What is obvious is that legacy, three-tier architectures offer a wasteful model where server, storage and network elements are physically provisioned and powered. Modern hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI), by contrast, virtualises storage, networking and compute resources resulting in power-saving efficiencies and higher levels of automation for software patching, and upgrading, also saving on headcount. Better hardware utilisation, thanks to a sleeker unified design, smaller footprint and shared resources, along with a simple pay-as-you-grow expansion model generates significant power savings and lower carbon footprint for customers adopting modern HCI architectures.
Think also about the impact of software intelligence to manage capacity so you can apply resources when and where they are needed.
Such a complex and serious topic requires more depth than we have room for here, but I urge readers to consider how adopting a modern HCI architecture could immediately improve the power efficiency of their datacentres.
This step can start the process of unloading private datacenters from the burden of legacy 3-tier architecture power usage and cost.
It also delivers a strong statement on how IT decisions can deliver a positive impact on the planet. The datacentre is an excellent starting point for CIOs to apply their scientific knowledge and evaluate how modern hyperconverged infrastructure can both save costs and set a good example of sustainability leadership.