Thursday, July 31, 2008

Carpooling Vs Virtualization

I realize that my previous post was a little bit too technical to get the message across to a wider audience. So, I decide to use a simple metaphor: What if carpooling was like virtualization?

First, let’s define Carpooling:
Instead of driving alone in your car, you share a vehicle with one or more persons. Benefits include:
  • reducing carbon footprint
  • reducing the amount of cars on the road
  • collateral : reducing traffic congestion and traffic jam related pollution
  • reduce gas consumption
  • we optimize car efficiency (maximise resource usage)
  • reduce infrastructure
We can see here the similitude between carpool and virtualization:
  • Instead of persons sharing a car , we have virtual machines sharing one physical server
  • We optimize physical server efficiency by maximising resource usage
However the similitude stops here, while carpooling try to remove cars from roads, virtualization doesn't remove server from datacenters. Datacenter floor space is expensive, as consequence, datacenter's owner try to maximise its occupation and efficiency.
To stick to the carpool metaphor, instead of removing cars from the roads, we are just putting more people on the roads while maintaining the same amount of cars. And since vehicles have to transport a heavier load they consume more gas and as consequence pollute more.
We optimize roads usage not server usage. However, some company are applying carpooling metaphor at the datacenter level. These companies have in house datacenters and reduce their numbers by consolidating services within fewer datacenters (reducing the amount of roads ...). But, the number of datacenter consolidated is still marginal compared to the number of datacenters build in the same amount of time.

However, to be totally honest, virtualization technology has some positives side effect on the environment. It still limits the increased environmental impact associated with the exponential IT growth driven by market demands. It reduces the amount servers needed to deploy new services by optimizing their efficiency.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Virtualization: Energy Efficiency vs Energy Sustainability

Virtualization is touted as a key solution in order to optimize datacenter efficiency. It allows clients to consolidate work onto fewer computers, increasing utilization, which can significantly reduce energy and maintenance bills and simplify their infrastructure.

It permits to evolve from computer systems using 5 percent to 12 percent of their capacity toward consolidated system running at 80% (remaining 20%: hypervisor + margin for manoeuvre).

Ok, now let’s have a look at what this means in number:

Before: (Source :"Epa report on server and data center energy efficiency")

After :
It’s a whopping increase from 1.4 Watts to 11.2 Watts. An 800% efficiency increase!!!!!

OK, now if you look at the big picture its only: an increase from 1.4% to 11.2% .. A really small increase of 9.8% . It’s still good but not the silver bullet the marketing drones want us to believe.

But the pitcture get a little darker if we start digging a little bit. Lets get some facts first, from Managing energy and server resources in hosting centers, we learn:
  • When server are idle they drawn 60% of their peak power consumption
  • The power comsumption is roughly linear with the load

Ok now, it means that if we move from an average 10% utilization ratio to a 90% (I roughly added 10% to the 80% for hypervisor related load), we end up drawing: 96% of the peak power consumption.
So far so good, let’s be bold and consider that we achieve an 8:1 consolidation ratio ( the reality is more around a 3:1 ratio) and we are still running the same hardware (while most of the time new , more powerfull, and ressource hungry hardware is deployed).
At the datacenter level it means we removed 7 servers out of 8 servers. An 87.5% reduction, which translate into an approximate reduction of power consumption of the servers by : 81.25 % not to forget that we can also reduce significantly the power , cooling and lightning consumption.

However, if you are a datacenter manager you don't want all this empty space (and unused servers) to go to waste (remember datacenter space is expensive). So we simply re-commissioned those servers for other task, lease them etc...

What do we end up with: a 36% power usage increase of the server’s power consumption of the datacenter + the rest. Roughly a 35% power consumption increase, BUT ! we increased the efficiency.

Now the big question where is the sustainability aspect in that?
Lets have a look at the sustainability definition :
"the quality of a state or process that allows it to be maintained indefinitely; the principles of sustainability integrate three closely interlinked elements—the environment, the economy, and the social system—into a system that can be maintained in a healthy state indefinitely."

Virtualization sustainability check :
  • Economy : Check ... More bangs for bukcs, revenue UP , shareholders happy
  • Social : Kind of Check ... We provide more services, customers happy
  • Environment : ... mm nope cannot find it, we are actually consumming more energy.
Result: Fail

Ok , now some will argue that you can turn off unused servers by using smart automation systems in order to reduce the environmental impact. Right .., why would a company would reduce its server ROI?
On top of that, here comes the savior buzzword : the cloud : Unused servers will be pushed into a cloud infrastructure so they can be used dynamically for other task .. No more waste

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Green IT: Sustainability , strategy and hype

Recently, i have gradually been more and more invovle on "Green IT" topics and related projects (the extact term is : "to be caught up in the system"). I realized that the current strategy applied by company is mainly capability driven, to put it into simple word it means: doing more with the same amount or less resources (think virtualization).
The main metrics for those efforts is TCO reduction and actual environmental impact is just a side effect and used for "green washing" the company strategy.
On top of that, I have yet to see the actual numbers for postive environmental impact of such strategy. Company are claiming millions in savings, however, where are those million going? They are reinvested in non sustainable related effort.

The following graph depicts my opinion of the actual sustainable IT strategy taken by many company. Currently going green means reducing TCO. But since most of the money saved is reinvested in non environmental related projects. There is actually no real effort toward environmental sustainability.

However, these “cheap and green” solutions for TCO will soon be exhausted and company will actually need to spend money to maintain their environmentally friendly masquerade. This will in return reverse the trends, the TCO will rise because they want to be “green” and finally (hopefully) will generate a positive ecological impact.
The strategy will switch from being capability driven to business driven. How fast this change will occur. It will depend of various factors:
  • Awareness: Public Opinion increasing
  • Economic: Consumer Demand Increasing Corporate; Customer Demand Increasing; Shareholder Demand Increasing
  • Social and Environmental: Consensus growing on Environmental Impact Political
  • Political: Government Laws / Regulations increasing

Let’s be a little bit pessimistic and add the hype cycle curve to the picture... (ok i m not fully objective here with the curve placement but its for the sake of the demonstration )

What I want to demonstrate is the risk created by the current hype to environmental strategy within companies and more particularly to the critical section: switching from capability to business driven strategy. It will coincide with the "Trough of Disillusionment" . At this stage the technologies fail to meet expectations and quickly become unfashionable. Consequently, the press usually abandons the topic and the technology. And when the press lose interest so do the board members and share holders. This abandonment will be accelerated with the rising costs to maintain the environmentally friendly masque .

As consequences there is a high probability that companies will never crossover toward providing actual sustainable environmental solutions. The only things that will force them will probably come from public and political pressure due to ecological issue (not mentionning catastrophic ecological event).

I hope I’m wrong, but company are not a person. They have no social or ethic responsibility per se. And when you look at the result from Robert Hare, a University of British Columbia Psychology Professor and FBI consultant, which used diagnostic criteria from the DSM-IV to analyse the "personality" of the corporate "person". In his finding he compares the profile of the modern, profit-driven corporation to that of a clinically-diagnosed psychopath.

What a wonderfull world..........

Monday, July 28, 2008

Moving from green IT to green beret IT

I came across this link and realised that it might not be easy for these guys everyday. So i decided to adapt the famous song :The Ballad Of The Green Berets by Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler

Fighting admin from the sky
Fearless men who code and die
Men who email just what they say
The brave men of the GreenIT Beret

Green wings upon their chest
These are men, ICT's best
One hundred men will patch today
But only three win the GreenIT Beret

Trained to live off datacenter's land
Trained in ups, broadband
Men who code by night and day
Uptime peak from the GreenIT Berets

Green wings upon their chest
These are men, ICT's best
One hundred men will patch today
But only three win the GreenIT Beret

Back at home a young wife waits
Her GreenIT Beret has met his fate
His servers died from being slashdotted
Leaving her his last request
Put green wings on my son's chest
Make him one of ICT's best
He'll be a admin they'll test one day
Have him win the GreenIT Beret.

Green wings upon their chest
These are men, ICT's best
One hundred men will patch today
But only three win the GreenIT Beret

Cloud , the next skynet ?

Maybe we should apply the three law of robotics to cloud

  1. A cloud may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A cloud must obey orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A cloud must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

And maybe we should add the Zeroth Law too ... just to be safe :

"A cloud may not harm a human being, unless he finds a way to prove that in the final analysis, the harm done would benefit humanity in general."