Running Out Of Energy...

Ironic, at a time when energy and oil companies are announcing record profits, the issue of energy – or a lack of it – is, or should be, a major concern for IT professionals, but seemngly isn’t.

There’s nothing new here. I recall a report wot I wrote over 10 years ago for the artist formerly known as HP Networking where we measured the power consumption of their Ethernet switches against a somewhat well-known rival vendor, and found them to be 50% more efficient in power usage. This – even back then – was a big deal, as the major conurbations simply did not have the grid capacity to power new data centres. However, ignorance on the subject matter prevailed; it was not bliss and it never will be – education was the requirement back then.

Fast forward to 2023 (2023! Are we in a sci-fi movie?) and a survey released by ASUS (who don’t only make laptops, you know 😊) from interviewing many  server users about their procurement decisions shows that education is still at the top of the curriculum requirements. Here are the headlines from that survey:

Among UK organisations with 11 or more servers:

  • 35% say energy efficiency should be a factor in their server purchasing decisions. Fewer – 34% – say that energy efficiency is a factor in such decisions.
  • 33% agree that server-related energy costs should be a line-item in their IT budgets, while 36% disagree.
  • 56% say that server-related energy costs are a line item in the IT budget, and 32% say they are not.
  • 47% say their IT department has an energy-efficiency and sustainability policy
  • 24% say energy efficiency is of less importance when purchasing servers than it was 12 months ago.

When you consider the cost factor alone, that last statement is shocking (no pun intended)! Have the CFOs been consulted? ASUS (the largest motherboard supplier in the world, don’t you know) also noted that smaller companies (with 2-5 servers on average) were far more respectful of the cost of energy and the need to minimise its use. It also noted that younger IT beings were more aware of the issue. So, those with shallower pockets for budgets are working on a need-to-know basis and the new kids on the block were born into a “climate change aware” world, so understand the energy issues more natively. That’s a lot of people therefore that still need education.

I had a great conv with ASUS’ UK & Ireland country manager Morten Mjels where we explored the ongoing quest to minimise power consumption in the DC; for example, the use of different cooling techniques for servers – more on this in future blogs – and the need for more understanding on the subject.  Morten noted that he would readily have expected survey respondents to list energy efficiency alongside the likes of performance as priorities, but they didn’t. Moreover, they seemed to think that performance versus energy consumption is a trade-off; in reality, increasing the former is a natural by-product of reducing the latter. Efficiency breeds efficiency in other words. It’s a fundamental of design that I’ve noted at first hand over decades of product testing.

To finish with, here’s a simple car analogy: My fiat 500 (Jason) has a 0.87 litre engine; my mates’ 500 has a 1.2 litre block. Mine is (considerably) faster, uses less fuel (plus zero road tax) – and also handles far better, due to a lower weight in the nose. My engine was developed around 2010 and his was developed just post stone-age (I think). He still struggles to understand why my 25% smaller engine block makes the same car go (much) faster and more efficiently (though not as much as his 500 struggles to get up the Devon hills). It’s all in the technology.

Ye Gods – there’s a lot of education required still…




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