Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Server efficiency draft released; Going green pays

This week, the data center industry group working on a standard for server energy efficiency released a draft of the document for public comment. Draft version 9.0 was chaired by Jonahtan Koomey, data center power expert at Stanford University and LBNL and included participants from the Big Four server vendors as well as AMD and Intel. For a copy of the document, go to the EPA's Data center site.

The move toward industry-wide energy efficiency standards started when AMD and Sun hosted EPA representatives, end users and competitors at a summit in January, 2006. From there, others have gotten involved with the performance/efficiency issue.

Sun has been out front, especially from a marketing standpoint, on energy efficiency and the environment. The newest line of servers have been heavily promoted as energy efficient altneratives. Sun has hired a VP of Eco-responsibility, David Douglas. And execs have gone as far as to wrangle green design guru Bill McDonough to shill for them [Note: McDonough delined to be interviewed by on technology issues].

The eco-responsiblility push seems to have paid off for Sun. The company beat out Dell for the number three spot in server market share according to a report from IDC today. While a lot of Sun's gains can be attributed to a refresh of its important UltraSparc product line and a foray into x86 computing, the main message coming out of Santa Clara is green = $$$$ for data centers, and that seems to be ringing true for Sun as well.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Data center on the road, Part 2

We can't seem to stay put. editorial is on the road again, taking it to the people. Mark Fontecchio has been down in Baltimore at the semi-annual Share conference, the mainframe user group meeting. Where attendees got info on new Tivoli features as well as on how to dress. It's a running theme at Share these past two meetings: Mainframer makeovers. Other stories from the conference included mainframe users upgrading to the latest versions of CICS and Z/VM the mainframe virtualization platform. Expect a Share wrap up next week.

Also, thanks to topics started by bloggers from RedMonk and TalkBMC, Fontecchio wrote a story about RSS feeds and systems management.

Me? I'm headed to sunny Silicon Valley tomorrow morning to get some face time with the folks at HP. I should have an update for you on what the rest of the IT community thinks about Sun's recent rebate deal with PG&E and how that's going to play out for the development of server efficiency standards. Look for it on Monday, with comment from HP, the EPA's Andrew Fanara, energy conscious data center manager Bob Doherty and more.

Also next Friday it's roadtrip time; I'm headed to Seattle to meet up with component-level liquid cooling specialists ISR at the SprayCool showcase facility.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

PG&E-Sun rebate: Open Letter to Jonathan Schwartz

This week I reported on the recent news about Sun Microsystems and PG&E. The California-based utility company is offering major rebates to customers that buy Sun's new T1000 and T2000 servers which were designed for energy efficiency. While this was a great strategy for promoting Sun servers, I'm not sure if it was much of a sucess for data center efficiency overall. I posted this letter to Jonathan's Blog this morning. UPDATE: Published on the blog, no comment as yet.

From Schwartz' blog: PG&E will give rebates to California businesses for jettisoning our competitors products, and replacing them with more efficient Niagara machines, our UltraSPARC T1000 or T2000 servers. We are the first company to have met the requirements that prove the outstanding efficiency of our datacenter infrastructure. Moving off our competition and onto Sun saves money, power, space, and lessens the impact the IT industry has on the environment.

My letter:Hey Jonathan, I think Sun is doing a great job with its green computing strategy. You guys literally dominate the conversation on this issue. SWAP was a great idea; hosting the EPA event, even better. But I was a little disappointed in how the PG&E deal played out.

First, the way this news was laid out made it sound like these new Niagara machines were selected from a bunch of competing systems. But they weren’t really. PG&E didn't offer this rebate to any other vendor.

Second, no one knew about this. Not the other vendors, not the EPA people. I know because I called them.

Now this might not sound like a big deal, but Sun, its competitors, the EPA and others are supposed to be working together to form server efficiency standards. In fact, David Douglas, your VP of eco-responsibility said those standards are going to be what allows rebate programs to take off in other parts of the country. I think this move might breach the trust you had gained and hurt the standards process.

I think the PG&E deal was a brilliant move. I just didn't like the execution.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

PG&E and Sun team up for energy efficiency rebates

California's utility giant Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) teamed up with Sun Microsystems this week to offer customers rebates on their power bills for replacing old servers with Sun's new T1000 and T2000 machines.

So far Sun is the only vendor involved in the program. A PG&E spokesperson said that the company had partnered with Sun on the project and it had not yet been exteneded to other server manufacturers. But the program is now open to other vendors.

I briefly spoke with HP's Ken Baker, BladeSystem Infrastructure Technologist after the article ran this morning. He pointed to existing incentive programs, such as the 80-Plus program which offers incentives for energy efficient power supplies in desktops and servers.

Baker said these type of incentives would continue to grow in popularity, but they may face funding challenges. will be publishing further comment from PG&E as well as other vendors who have a stake in energy rebates. Check out more information on PG&E's rebate program.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The data center debate on fuel cells

According to a report from CNET, Verizon is using hydrogen fuel cells for its primary power source at a Long Island data center. The report says Verizon spent $13 million to build the facility, and $300,000 in the first year to operate the system -- but the company actually saved $680,000 per year on the energy bill. reported on hydrogen fuel cells as well. Some data center managers are hesitant to jump on board with the technology in an existing environment, but say it might be worth looking into for new construction.

What are the pros and cons of fuel cells?
  • Lighter than batteries or generators
  • Quieter than batteries or generators
  • Potentially more environmentally responsible
  • Longer uptime
  • Control over power supply in a co-generation scenario

    Cons of fuel cells?
  • Big upfront costs
  • Unfamiliar technologies
  • Potentially a net loss on actual energy when you factor in how much energy it takes to process and store the hydrogen for the fuel cells.

    For more on the hydrogen economy:
  • U.S. DOE Hyhdrogen, Fuel Cells & Infrastructure Technologies Program
  • American Power Conversion's Hydrogen Fuel Cell products, unveiled last summer
  • UTC Power's fuel cell technology

  • Thursday, August 03, 2006

    Data Center editorial on the road's editorial staff is on the road. Me? I'm currently typing this blog entry from a motel in Wyoming, just on the Western side of the Bighorn Mountain Range. I'm five days into a cross country move from Boston to that data center promised land, Oregon. I'll be covering most of the West Coast events for the site, while your intrepid reporter Mark Fontecchio will remain in Boston.

    Speaking of Mark, he's been on the road too, covering a recent IBM announcement in NYC about its x86 line. Fontecchio talked to some customers for the AMD-based x86 machines, including Vincent Stephens, vice president of technology at, who was very excited about the new machines.

    Mark also cranked out a story on Indiana's BMV, which had migrated off a 1970s mainframe and consolidated three databases into one. Unfortunately, there was a glitch in the process, even to the point where police can't access accurate driver records.

    Assuming my strained Honda Civic makes it, I'll talk to you all next week.