Virtuali(z)sation & datacenter power

It’s been very quiet here on the Electric Wand for the last month or so:

  • I took a new job in December which means things have been pretty hectic at work. I’m now managing a new group, and lots of time spent building up a great team.
  • Just back from Seattle from a week’s Microsoft internal technical conference.
  • To be honest, I haven’t had much to talk about on the blog 🙂

The TechReady conference I went to in Seattle had a few interesting themes, but much of the technical stuff presented is still internal only so can’t be discussed (yet) online. A good chunk is probably "subject to change" anyway …

There are a few themes which were either covered in a number of different sessions, or which really made me think hard about the way IT is going – amongst them Virtualisation (I do hate using the "z", even though it’s technically OK – it just seems so un-British), the march towards multi-core parallelism (instead of clock speed race) and the whole Green IT agenda of power usage.

I’m planning to write a bit more about both these topics in current weeks, along with business case for Office Communications Server, but here’s some food for thought:

A major enterprise datacenter could well be consuming 10s of Megawatt/Hs of power – something that could be equated to many, many flights or other so-called demons of carbon emissions. A back-of-an-envelope calculation of all Microsoft’s own datacenter power usage (including all the online services) would equate to over 100 Jumbo Jet flights from London to Seattle every day. That’s 100 planes, not 100 passengers…

This power usage topic is one which is going to grow in importance – not just because power prices are rising (eg a 100 MW/h power usage for a large internet datacenter could easily cost more than £15m per annum in power costs alone). One project internally in Microsoft is looking at the actual power usage and the equivalent tonnes of CO2 emissions of all of its datacenters – a concept that’s surely to become more mainstream in the future.

Citing datacenters by renewable energy sources (such as Google’s massive datacenter by the Colorado river in Oregon) makes the power usage more palatable, but it doesn’t remove the need to reduce heat (and air conditioning requirements) and overall power usage – even if it means employing people to physically go round pulling the plugs at night-time on the myriad rack servers.

Anyway, as I said, more on this topic in coming weeks – in the meantime, I’ve not gone away … just waiting for the right time to pipe up 🙂

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