While interest in the software-defined data center (a term initially coined by virtualization leader VMware) is growing, it’s still very early in the journey with a lot of non-trivial problems yet to be solved. One issue that nobody seems to be talking about is the physical infrastructure, including power and cooling, said Clemens Pfeiffer, CTO, Power Assure, the developer of what it calls software-defined power solutions.
It turns out that energy-efficiency is not an appealing story in data centers, he said. Actually, it’s not that it’s not appealing, just that there’s no money for it. “The money is being spent on the facility side, not IT. IT is more concerned about risk to applications than power savings.”
However, around half of all data center outages these days are caused by power problems, he said, and we are in an era in which most mission critical applications must run 24/7 with no maintenance window. Add in the facts that an increasing number of data centers now operate in areas that are subject to demand response power management events from utilities, and the possibility of catastrophic weather events and it’s not a case of when, not if you will be subject to a data-center outage, said Pfeiffer. “It only has to happen once, and then the customer will talk very quickly about power.”
There are two aspects to the physical data center, IT and utility. “IT has no control of utility, so IT says SDDC is compute, storage and networks. But if you yank power, you don’t have SDDC.”
Sizing the SDDC market is difficult because it’s so new, but an article from CRN’s Joe Kovar tried to set the parameters by focusing on related components. IDC estimated the software-defined networking market to be worth about $3.7 billion by 2016, up from $360 million in 2013. And while IDC has not yet publicly estimated the software-defined storage market, it did say in April that this part of the storage market will grow faster than any other part of the file-based or object-based storage market.
When you look at software-defined something, it’s all about providing the right capacity at the right time for the application, said Pfeiffer. If demand changes, the system adjusts automatically.”
Pfeiffer called Software Defined Power a mechanism to shift an application to the data center with the most reliable and cost efficient power source at any given time – within the limits of application service level guarantees – and is therefore hugely valuable in conquering the challenges of application reliability, as well as saving energy costs. His recommendations to ensure the proper planning of a complete SDDC environment include:
-leverage software defined servers, software defined networking and software defined storage solutions to free up applications from physical IT equipment;
-add a Software Defined Cooling solution to allow for dynamic adjustments of cooling capacity based on the actual heat output of IT equipment under variable load conditions;
-add a Software Defined Power solution that can migrate applications from one data center to another and provides power grid integration to intelligently determine the most reliable configuration for data centers at any given time; and,
-think of the software-defined data center as a pool of buildings, IT and cooling resources that can be used for applications as needed depending on application demand, power cost and availability, weather pattern and resource availability.
In addition to power-related data-center outages, there are also energy efficiencies to be considered, according to CDW. Its 2012 Energy Efficient IT Report found that energy efficient technologies and solutions implemented most often are as follows: virtualized servers or storage (65%); server consolidation (60%); low-power/low-wattage processors (46%); ENERGY STAR qualifying devices (44%); power-efficient networking equipment (31%); and energy-efficient/load-shedding uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) (28%). Cloud computing could be a game changer for energy efficient IT, with 62% of respondents agreeing that cloud computing is an energy efficient approach to data center consolidation, up from 47% in 2010.
With around 5% of the world’s energy going to data centers, up from 2-3%, reducing or better managing power usage is very attractive, said Pfeiffer.