One of the things I’ve noticed over the last year is the tactic by some vendors to hop on the Green bandwagon and try to use the attention being paid to it as a competitive differentiator. Let me be the first to say (as someone with ~10 years in facilities) beware of bad or incomplete math. Analyzing the efficiency of a single box is less complicated than you might think. Let me try to impart some lessons learned in planning the power and cooling design for 20+ enterprise class data centers.The three main considerations for power and cooling are; capacity, density and efficiency. Capacity is typically used in planning the power you need to provision. Density for cooling supply and airflow. My boss Doug “Dawg” Gourlay likes to call this Air Supply after his favorite band… Then there is efficiency. The later metric can be applied to a box, system, architecture and of course travel.Box level efficiency is almost purely dependent on the products power supplies as the power distribution within the chassis is Direct Current (DC) and rarely gets re-converted. Almost all IT equipment uses an Alternating Current (AC) Switched Mode Power Supply (SMPS) these days. These power supplies are typically sourced from Asia and have different levels of quality that can be specified. The quality typically relates to how efficient said supply is. For years Cisco has been paying a premium for highly efficient power supplies, particularly in the data center. Prior to roughly 2002 AC power supplies had efficiencies in the range of 70% efficiency at optimum load. Why did their efficiency jump up so high? This was a carry over from the .com boom where space efficiency was the big concern -- we had plenty of power but not enough space. Therefore the likes of Exodus and GlobalSwitch pushed equipment suppliers to make smaller boxes. So how do you do that? You make more efficient components. So highly efficient power supplies are readily available on the open market today.The best way to compare one box to another box is to first start by looking at the power supplies. This is purely predicated on how the supply is loaded. We at Cisco have power supplies that are ~90% efficient when loaded at 70% or higher. As an example, if I have a power supply that requires 1000 Watts I want to make sure that power supply is on average drawing 700 Watts. If I do this I am in the “efficiency sweet-spot”. The next level of box and ultimately systems comparison is much more complex. Power per port is a good starting point but must be blended with a use case. This involves a back and forth if you will between vendors and customers. First, the user must clearly define a use case, then the vendor can show how the feature sets in that product or solution address the use case. So in essence its Power Per Port to do “what” or what we typically refer to as Power Per Work Unit Performed.Given the complexity of IT operations this is still very much an emerging science. The broad scope of interoperability, scale up, scale out, virtualization, etc. of systems level comparison, this is not a simple task. Given the fact there is only a small difference at the box level, we’ve been laser focused on driving efficiency within the architecture and through improved asset utilization using things like storage virtualization. In case you have been wondering this is why we only engage on efficiency analysis at the product level with customers who ask us to and when the comparison has to do with operative efficiency using sound metrics. We are not adding to the “Green-wash” by using misplaced metrics and over-simplifying what can be a very complex comparison.So the moral to the story is while capacity, density and efficiency are all intra-related they are not the same. Don’t confuse capacity requirements of a single box with that boxes operative efficiency or systems efficiency. A good way to think of it is the automobile example which Omar Sultan described in earlier postings. My spin on his example is a Prius versus a Big Rig. Which is more efficient? Please answer back if you know the answer. I would also be very interested if there are any facilities professionals reading and would like to comment on efficiency analysis.
If you caught the keynote by Padmasree Warrior, our CTO, at Cisco Live, you know that the concept of”innovation through collaboration” is a key priority. So what does that mean?Well, one example is Jamey Heary’s recent discussion on what customers want to see in terms of new security features. Over in the data center, we want you to help us design our next generation of I/O modules for the Nexus 7000. We have just launched the Cisco Nexus 7000 I/O Module design tool. Some of you might have seen it at Cisco Live-its now available on cisco.com at www.cisco.com/go/nexus/yourdesign. The tool allows you to design an I/O module from scratch by picking performance, density and services and balancing those against available power-after all there is no free lunch. The tool also gives you an opportunity to tell us what your design priorities are and how you are building out your data center network.By collecting this information, we are giving our customers direct input into the very earliest stages of the design process. The tool is a modest start, but I have high hopes that it can evolve into a richer and broader forum for collaboration and innovation with our customers. So, check it out-its your opportunity to be a Cisco product manager, even if only for a short time.
So I’ve been instructed by more than a few customers to bite the blog bullet coming out of Cisco Live last week, the artist formally known as Networkers. We made a couple of big announcements that I’m personally very excited about. As the recipient of the alias email@example.com, a joke from IT that has stuck, I couldn’t be happier that we are walking the Green walk.The first announcement was Cisco’s commitment as part of EPA’s Climate Leaders Program to reduce our carbon footprint by 25% from 2007 levels by 2012. What makes this announcement different is that we are addressing our footprint globally, across owned and leased real estate, our employee travel and we will use our own technology to do it. The technology application areas will be mainly be lab, data center and employee travel. The second announcement we made was the Beta launch of the Efficiency Assurance Program. This reference and planning portal found at www.cisco.com/go/efficiency is a centralization of how Cisco technology can be applied across data centers, the real estate that hosts them and available technologies impacting how we work, play and learn. Most are familiar with Telepresence and WebEx, if these tools are applied correctly they can reduce carbon emissions related to human activity.Now we want to very clear that the proper application of our technology is key to combating global climate change. This is where Cisco needs your help and your commitment to helping us all be more considerate of the true costs of our activities. You will notice in the Efficiency Assurance Portal we have included a feedback tab. This email goes directly to the sites chief designer, ummmm me. What I’m hoping to do is involve our customers and partners in co-developing the solutions we deliver to help us all be more Green in our thinking.As you may be able to tell I’m a complete Green-Geek so forgive my serious tone. It has actually been a wonderful experience to witness and hopefully drive this awakening we are all going through, particularly here in the US. As the world has gone flat, our larger conscience has taken hold and we all do want to do the right thing. So please help us uncover new ways to live healthy, happy lives with better global stewardship than we have before. Now to put this in perspective, we have a long road ahead of us. The average miles per gallon as of 2004 in the US was 24.6. Ford’s original Model-T got 25mpg and was a “flex-fuel” car. For 100 years we have taken a “if its not broken then don’t fix it” approach. This certainly applies to how we have built data centers as anyone with a facilities background can confirm. This is why Cisco is a participating member in The Green Grid. The Green Grid has been formed to define the metrics equivalent to miles per gallon across facilities and IT. Just as important are the open standards under consideration so we can begin to manage power consumption via IP.Lastly, we also want to help you be more influential in your organization. We hope that giving you somewhat of a “one stop shop” in the Efficiency Assurance Program will add to the value you deliver as a technology professional. We hope you make it your mission to become the mr or msgreen@….Thanks for reading, drop us a note a let us know how we’re doing.
Here is a frank, wide-ranging interview that Om Malik conducted with Debra Chrapaty, Microsoft Corporate Vice President, Global Foundation Services. She covers a number of topics from their data center strategy to the role of containers to environmental initiatives and their areas of innovation and differentiation. Considering the size of her domain, she offers some interesting perspectives.
Cisco Live 2008 -- June 25, 2008