I'm watching with mixed emotions as more and more vendors start to describe their products as addressing challenges associated with reducing power and cooling in the data center.
On one hand, clearly it's a monumental challenge -- and opportunity.
On the other hand, I'm starting to see vendors with thinner and thinner claims start to add this message to their marketing drumbeat.
That's not a good thing.
EMC Has Done A Fair Amount Here
If you look at our portfolio, we've basically got two offerings here for customers.
One is through VMware. And I think most people understand that dramatic server consolidation through virtualization can take a big hunk out of power and cooling budgets.
Yes, you might end up with bigger, beefier servers to run in a post-VMware world, but I think it's safe to say that most people will end up ahead of the game.
The other is in our core storage business. Not surprisingly, a gigabyte stored on a 500GB drive uses only a small fraction of the power required to store the same gigabyte on a 146 or 300GB drive. Yes, the associated controller electronics are more efficient as well, but the big play is in using the media effectively.
EMC created a power calculator (servers and storage) to help customers figure out how much power they were actually using. It knows about EMC and non-EMC products.
Turns out that just looking at spec sheets isn't a good way to do this.
OK, so we can find out what you're using today. But what's the potential opportunity for server and storage power savings?
We use a variety of tools to address a customer's environment to assess the potential for server virtualization. Some servers make sense to virtualize, others may not.
We use a different set of tools to address file systems, email environments and databases to assess the potential for tiering information on less expensive (and less power consumptive) devices.
And then we can feed both scenarios back into the power calculator to arrive at a reasonable estimate of what the power and cooling savings might be (as well as the cost of getting there) post-server-consolidation and post-storage-tiering.
And once the numbers are in front of you, it's pretty easy to decide whether or not you want to do this. That's nice.
Is there more we can do in the future? Yes.
Has this turned out to be a pretty meaningful offering for customers who are concerned about power and cooling issues? You bet.
So Where's Everyone Else?
The responses vary. I think HP has done a good job in offering services around data center infrastructure design, including overall airflow and temperature management issues. That's something EMC doesn't do.
I have to be honest, I don't really know what IBM's story is here. I think it's just another variant of IBM Global Services coming in and helping you figure out things. I could be wrong, though.
The storage part of IBM is running with the story that tape is more power-efficient than disk, you know.
Yes, they're right.
And paper is more power-efficient than tape, you know.
And Those Thin Provisioning Claims Really Irk Me
Many of us believe that -- used judiciously -- it's a tool that might be useful in a few situations. And, yes, EMC offers it on a few of our products.
But most of us feel it's being waaaayyyyy oversold as a panacea to efficient storage utilization.
Going a bit further, there are now vendors that are trying to paint a picture that thin provisioning can be justified on energy savings as well.
Given that it's my personal belief that much of the interest in thin provisioning stems from poor storage management practices, it's very hard for me to get my head wrapped around this one.
Yes, if you've got tons of wasted storage spinning on the floor serving no useful purpose, these vendors might have a theoretical point. But I'd be tempted to get after the root problem, rather than just masking the symptoms.
And, in the spirit of customer-centric thinking, I'd suggest that these vendors offer an assessment tool (as well as a calculator) that could easily get to the potential upside, rather than just making marketing claims.
There are other examples in the IT landscape of vendors who are making green data center claims, but I digress. It seems to me that there's a lot of opportunistic positioning going on.
Look, This Is All Too Important To Be Messing Around
Global warming is a serious issue.
Running out of energy in data centers is a serious issue.
The people who are concerned about these issues aren't fooling around.
And neither should be vendors.
If you've got a compelling story to tell, and the tools and methodologies to back it up, the more than merrier. No one vendor is going to have a lock on solving this problem.
But if you're just looking for another way to spin your latest feature, let's do everyone a favor and show a bit of restraint.