Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Storage feels the pain of power crunch

What's the difference between server hardware and storage devices? The answer: Not much. Despite this fact, storage vendors so far have had it easy in the recent IT energy crisis. But now users want answers according to Jo Maitland [pictured right], news director at SearchStorage.com.

In a recent article, Maitland points out that many storage managers don't know what kind of power or cooling their storage devices are demanding. EMC and HDS arrays collect alarms and alerts from their systems regarding power use, but the devices supply no diagnostic capabilities that report to the users.

As storage demand continues to explode, look for storage managers to force the vendors' hands on energy usage reporting. Also, look for companies to start building out more efficient machines.

We recently reported that the EPA's working group currently involved with developing a energy metrics for server hardware is considering focusing on storage devices next. The revised energy standard for 1U and 2U servers will be available this week.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Johnny Five crashes Data Center Decisions

CHICAGO -- Tech Target's data center conference, Data Center Decisions is well underway. After two days on the road with nearly no sleep I'm starting to see talking robots. Seriously.

There was a talking robot on the expo floor tonight.

Sprockit the robot was a crusing for the show floor. One of the vendors at the show had shelled out some bucks to rent the robot from a talent agency. The story was that the robot was legit -- artificial intelligence. It had amazing voice recognition, it could read, and it could respond to pretty much any statement.

JP Callahan, a former counter-intelligence agent with the U.S. Department of Defense and current security guru at Verizon Business is a born skeptic. He didn't buy into the AI for a minute. We used my Tech Target pull to search behind the scenes for the guy with the headset and monitor.

Unfortunately we never came up with anything, but we both decided that:

A. The onboard equipment for this thing would never support the kind of response times, voice and optic recognition or memory storage needed for the act. The AI apparatus was about the size of a notebook computer.

B. If there was such a piece of AI hardware floating around, some talent agency wouldn't be the ones to own it.

C. It was pretty sweet either way, because I'm still thinking about it now.

Check out our pre-conference Q&A with Callahan that ran today. Assistant editor Adam Trujillo cornered him last week for an interview.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Sun Blackbox Dos and Don'ts

From the desk of Jack Loftus: This is a work of satire. It is humor, and should be read as such. No Sun servers were harmed in the writing of this article.

Just the other day, as I was touring a real live data center as part of an effort to appear busy, a thought occurred to me that had never struck the ol' grey matter before.

The thought was: This would look great in a trailer.

Nothing fancy mind you, just a little 20'x8' windowless abode that my servers and cables and an administrator could call home. Windows, as you probably know, breed thoughts of going outside and fun and fresh air and therefore hamper productivity. Like vacation days and clocks, they have no place in my DC.

So you can imagine my great surprise when Sun Microsystems, the plucky vendor that graced us all with modern marketing marvels like Sun Grid, unveiled a literal Winnebago of sorts that I could throw on a flatbed, put my DC in, and then take it. When the world gives you Linux lemons, make OpenSolaris lemonade, right Sun?

To make things even better, they even allowed an elite cadre of data center journalists to go inside of a demo unit. The unit has dual doors apparently, so Sun was able to swing them both wide open and accommodate all of those egos at once. Quite a feat in engineering.

SearchDataCenter.com Site Editor Matt Stansberry said Sun's PR people had Crisco on hand to help get him out of the Blackbox.

"Pile in," said Sun CEO and resident rock star Jonathan Schwartz, "we're going to crank this DC up to 11." That's right kids; the hair isn't just for show.

From Stansberry's article on the announcement: "Companies that wish to use the prefabricated data centers can simply roll them up to their buildings and plug them in -- water chillers, AC power and backup generators not included."

I agree, and as a moonlighting thief myself, I’d encourage the rest of my ilk to wait until nightfall and "simply roll" the prefab DC onto an idling truck and drive it away to China for some serious black market cash.

Sun also said that the trailers could be outfitted with other vendor's hardware should the customer require it, which led this literally thinking journo to inquire: "Then why don't people just go buy a trailer from a dump and fill it themselves?" Unfortunately, I was sitting alone at my desk at the time and my monitor didn't say anything, as usual.

Now, it's still very early in the Sun Blackbox program, but already I have managed to compile a list of activities the curious DC admin should and should not do with one of these things.

DO place you Sun Blackbox in your front yard on cement blocks
DO NOT place your Sun Blackbox near the Superdome
DO appear trendy and decorate the side with 7EEt speak phrases like "My Blackbox is the suxx00r!"
DO NOT decorate the sides with phrases like "steal me"
DO engage in team building exercises and allow stressed out administrators access to a crane so they can play "Sun Blackbox Tetris"
DO NOT use vodka instead of water to cool the servers
DO have the occasional rave and install a working wet bar
DO NOT place Sun Blackboxes on the cliff edges or very steep hills.
DO buy a thousand units if you are the U.S. Government and then leave them unlocked. Laptop theft is so passé
DO NOT enter your Sun Blackbox in a tractor pull

Jack Loftus is News Writer for SearchOpenSource.com.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Sun Blackbox photos


Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz explains the Sun Blackbox


Sun CTO Greg Papadopoulos display's Blackbox model


Sun attempts to kill pesky IT journalists by piling them into project Blackbox.




Sliding apparatus to move racks back and forth.



Sun Blackbox support: Power generation and chilled water.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Data center blogs

It's taken a while to compile this list, but here it is...

Data center blogs

SearchDataCenter.com doesn’t exist in a bubble. We need to read widely to get the best story ideas and perspectives. This is a list of the data center blogs we read and why we read them.

This is by no means the definitive list. So if we left you off and you're sufficiently upset, tell me why you should be on here and I'll post an addendum.

Illuminata Perspectives: This analyst blog by Jonathan Eunice and Gordon Haff always offers something interesting. They aren't strictly data center oriented, but there is plenty of meaty IT insight. Plus, they hired one of our regular contributors recently, Wayne Kernochan. Sadly, that means Wayne won't have the bandwidth to write for us anymore. Nevermind, take them off the list.

Jonathan Schwartz's Weblog: This blog supposedly isn't even written by the Sun Microsystems CEO, but I still read it. Why? Well, for one, you get the sense of what Sun is planning to do, strategy-wise. For example, a recent post outlines Sun's "death of the data center" spiel that execs will be presenting at an event tomorrow. I'll keep you posted on that one.

Pete Sacco's Data Center Design: NJ-based data center designer Pete Sacco tackles all sorts of data center issues on his blog, which has been around since April 2006. The current post deals with the pros and cons of server virtualization.

Life and Times of an Infrastructure Architect: Just good fun reading here. Mhalligan rolls out data center management gems from his LiveJournal blog. He covers everything from speculation on an oceangoing GooglePlex to the shady nature of Bay Area data center collocation companies that won’t give him a straight answer on pricing.

Data Center Knowledge: This site is probably the best of the best if you're looking for timely news analysis blogging. There is a lot of info here on Web hosting companies, data center real estate deals other things I'm not as interested in. But the great range of topics and information keeps me coming back.

ecoIron: Portland, Maine-based consultant Mark Ontkush tackles technology and the environment on a site that is updated very frequently. The topics range from e-Waste to power consumption and run the gamut of consumer to enterprise IT.

TalkBMC: Though it's not updated often, Fred Johannessen at BMC tackles some interesting systems management issues, including using RSS for systems alerts.

Mainframe: This is a great blog run by some analysts and folks at IBM. It seemed to start out slow, but it's in full swing now. If you're into quirky mainframe stuff -- which if you're reading this you likely are -- you should check them out.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Energy efficiency standard for storage next?

The EPA and others drafting the server energy efficiency standard for the data center recently announced that the committee hopes to have a revised, road-tested standard in the next few months -- by December at the latest. The process is moving a lot faster than I expected, and probably faster than others thought it would too.

I don't have any information yet on what manufacturers or models the standard will likely to favor. But the fact that it's pushing through with minimal griping or caveats from vendors makes me nervous that there will be a lot of gray area when it comes to efficiency claims.

As a result of how quickly this process is coming together, people are getting ambitious. IBM recommended that the group look into energy efficiency standards for storage hardware next. Sun Microsystems execs say customers are not pushing Sun to make more efficient storage equipment.

But the fact is, the need for storage equipment is growing faster than servers, according to a recent report from Merrill Lynch. And companies like EMC, 3Par and obviously IBM are looking into the energy efficiency angles.

Hopefully data center managers will have a meaningful measuring stick in the near future for both servers and storage. Check out the draft standard on the EPA's data center site.