EXECUTIVE BRIEF Identifying the Biggest IT Resource Drains The spotlight has been on data center efficiency for more than
midsize data center, a realistic goal with current technologies,
five years now. Yet, inefficient technologies dominate most
can save millions annually.
facilities, utilization rates remain surprisingly low, and it often
But the bigger cost may be in the area of agility. An inefficient
takes three weeks and six people to make the simplest
IT infrastructure is less able to respond to the demands of the
decision or change.
business it serves, and that can be crippling. The first step in
The business impact of those inefficiencies goes well beyond
rectifying that situation is identifying the systems and processes
the cost of electricity, although that is becoming increasingly
that are draining the energy, both electrical and human, out of
significant. Reducing energy and operational costs by half in a
your data center.
Map Your Minutes If you are one of the more than 70 percent of organizations still working toward the highest tier of data center performance efficiency, ask why. Are you spending more time and resources on day-to-day operations and less on new projects than you’d like? Most organizations aren’t in that position because of management direction, but because they’re constantly fighting fires. When there are constant operational issues to address, carving out planning time requires extraordinary measures. Without planning, you’ll never get to a better balance of “keeping the lights on” vs. innovating. Planning starts with knowing what you have. Assess your people and your environment. Where are non-value added activities? Maybe network problems are requiring constant urgent fixes. Fixes maintain value but they don’t add value. Bring in an expert, correct the issue once and for all. Maybe it’s outside your network expert’s skill set. Outsourcing facilities management might fix that problem. Maybe your people are chronically getting pulled into extraneous meetings. You can fix that.
Assess Your Assets Few companies truly have a handle on their assets. If you had to support the divestiture of a business tomorrow, would you know what IT assets go with it, physically, virtually and from the cloud? If a company courted yours for potential acquisition, would you know how to present your IT assets? What do you have in place today – how old are servers, what applications are they running, how often are they used? What power and cooling assets support what servers? Do you have an up-to-date map of your physical layout, virtual layout, and know who owns the assets? Could you confidently discuss your workload efficiency?
Optimizing a mid-size data center using technologies widely available today and no heroic measures could shave $1.5 million annually. (Source: Energy Logic 2.0) In a study of an enterprise data center by Intel, older servers consumed 60 percent of the energy but delivered only 4 percent of performance. (Source: Energy Logic 2.0) Emerson Network Power Customer Insight Studies show: On average, data center managers use atleast four different software platforms to manage their physical infrastructure. Fifty-six percent of data center managers produce more than three operational reports each month, with 19 percent producing more than six. These reports take about three hours a month, with some managers spending more than five hours. The average data center uses 62 percent of available rack space. On average, data centers purchase critical infrastructure equipment from five different vendors.
This exercise extends to people as well. What are the skill sets of your staff? What training and certifications do they have? Are they collaborating or working heads-down? The more communication among staff managing servers, networks, storage, power and cooling, etc., the more likely you are to arrive at innovative ideas. While you are scanning your people, processes and critical infrastructure, keep an eye out for the most common efficiency drains:
Drain No. 1: “Buffer” Capacity If you are going by nameplate capacity estimations, you are likely operating with a 20 percent buffer, and many organizations won’t encroach on the “buffer” for fear of causing downtime. Harnessing that buffer could defer a major addition or even a new data center build. The right data center infrastructure management solution will give you capacity information in real time and let you confidently tap into that capacity.
Drain No. 2: Ghost Servers Having some way to measure energy use will let you make informed decisions regarding capacity, availability and optimization as well as energy use. DCIM is one way to get there. Knowing what you have can tell you what to turn off. Companies have achieved dramatic savings just by virtualizing and turning off what they aren’t using. An idle server wastes nearly double the amount of energy it draws when you consider the resources that support it. Getting a handle on this wasted energy saves money and capacity. Do you have a good handle on servers that aren’t serving a purpose? You may also have ghost virtual machines, and that means an unnecessary use of storage. VMs are easy to create and very difficult to track down. They’re often not well documented.
Drain No. 3: Inefficient Servers Most organizations have embraced virtualization but overlooked other opportunities to cut energy costs. Energy-efficient processors and power supplies have been shown to reduce data center energy costs by 18 percent. Using the server power management software that’s likely already a part of your servers can shave off another 9 percent.
Drain Number 4: Heterogeneous Environments If one person is managing five servers when another is managing 50, you may need to look at standardization. Standardization of equipment, tools and processes make people more productive. If you are running Dell servers, HP blades and IBM mainframes, your staff is likely using different operating systems and platforms, maybe different virtualization methods and tools for diagnosis. Your physical environment should have a high degree of standardization: one staff member managing one brand of servers using one set of tools and procedures. If you aren’t in a standardized environment now, use your server-refresh cycle to standardize. Put together a plan to get to a mostly homogenous environment in three years. Processes should be standardized as much as possible as well. This can be done in many ways, but you may want to consider the Lean processes that have benefitted manufacturing companies.
Drain Number 5: Needlessly High SLAs If your IT organization is like most, you answer business needs as they arise. Every business client wants the best available network bandwidth, responsiveness, disaster recovery, and storage-level available – until you give them the cost. Then they see the value of matching service level with need. Companies that do charge backs will see less demand and less expenditures overall. Mailbox size limitation is an example. By requiring employees to manage their own email boxes to a set limit, you can reduce costs, IT complexity and time spent.
Drain No. 6: Limited Visibility Make sure you have the right tools to enable your staff to be as efficient as possible. For instance, do they get alerts when an issue emerges? Do they need to walk the floor to determine where there may be space for a server, or can they look at a dashboard that maps available capacity and “what if” scenarios? Most importantly, if you move toward a consolidated, highly utilized, highly available infrastructure and displace old applications with new applications as you evolve, you’ll increase operational and electrical efficiency without impacting your current applications. More importantly, you’ll position your IT organization to support dynamic business demands in real time.