In disappointment, there is opportunity. . .

I was personally greatly disappointed with the news coming out of last week that the Uptime Institute had branded Microsoft and Google as the enemy to traditional data center operators.  To be truthful, I did not give the reports much credit especially given our long and successful relationship with that organization.  However, when our representatives to the event returned and corroborated the story, I have to admit that I felt more than  a bit let down.

As reported elsewhere, there are some discrepancies in how our mission was portrayed versus the reality of our position.   One of the primary messages of our cloud initiatives is that there is a certain amount of work/information that you will want to be accessed via the cloud, and there is some work/information that you want to keep privately.  Its why we call it SOFTWARE + SERVICES.  There’s quite a few things people just would not feel comfortable running in the cloud.   We are doing this (data center construction and operation)  because the market, competitive forces, and our own research is driving us there.   I did want to address some of the misconceptions coming out of that meeting however:

On PUE, Measurement, and our threat to the IT industry

The comments that Microsoft and Google are the biggest threat to the IT industry and that Microsoft is “making the industry look bad by putting our facilities in areas that would bring the PUE numbers down” are very interesting.  First as mentioned before, please revisit our Software + Services strategy, its kind of hard to be a threat if we are openly acknowledging the need for corporate data centers in our expressed strategy.   I can assure you that we have no intention of making anyone look “bad”, nor do we in any way market our PUE values.  We are not a data center real estate firm and we do not lease out our space where this might even remotely be a factor. 

While Microsoft believes in Economization (both water and air-side), not all of our facilities employ this technology.  In fact, if a criticism does exist its that we believe that its imperative to widen your environmental envelopes as open as you can.  Simply stated – run your facilities hotter!

The fact of the matter is that Microsoft has invested in both technology and software to allow us to run our environments more aggressively than a traditional data center environment.   We understand that certain industries have very specific requirements around the operation of storage of information which drive and dictate certain physical reliability and redundancy needs.   I have been very vocal around getting the Best PUE for your facility.  Our targets are definitely unrealistic for the industry at large but the goal of driving the most efficiency you can out of your facilities is something everyone should be focused on.

It was also mentioned that we do not measure our facilities over time which is patently untrue.   We have years and years worth of measured information for our facilities with multiple measurements per day.  We have been fairly public about this and have produced specifics on numbers (including the Uptime Symposium last year) which makes this somewhat perplexing. 

On Bullying the Industry

If the big cloud players are trying to bully the industry with  money and resources, I guess I have to ask – To what end?  Does this focus on energy efficiency equate to something bad?  Aside from the obvious corporate responsibility of using resources wisely and lowering operating costs, the visibility we are bringing to this space is not inherently bad.  Given the energy constraints we are seeing across the planet, a focus on energy efficiency is a good thing. 

Lets not Overreact, There is yet hope

While many people (external and internal) approached me about pulling out of the Uptime organization entirely or even suggesting that we create a true non-for-profit end user forum, motivated by technology and operations issues alone, I think its more important to stay the course.   As an industry we have so much yet to accomplish.  We are at the beginning of some pretty radical changes in both technology, operations, and software that will define our industry in the coming decades.   Now is not the time to splinter but instead redouble our efforts to work together in the best interests of all involved.

Instead of picking apart the work done by the Green Grid and attacking the PUE metric by and large, I would love to see Uptime and Green Grid working together to give some real guidance.  Instead of calling out that PUE’s of 1.2 are unrealistic for traditional data center operators, would it not be more useful for Uptime and Green Grid to produce PUE targets and ranges associated with each Uptime Tier?   In my mind that would go along way to drive the standardization of reporting and reduce ridiculous marketing claims of PUE.

This industry is blessed with two organizations full of smart people attacking the same problem set.  We will continue our efforts through the Microsoft Data Center Experience (MDX) events, conferences, and white-papers to share what we are doing in the most transparent way possible.


Author: mmanos

Infrastructure at Scale Technologist and Cloud Aficionado.

5 thoughts on “In disappointment, there is opportunity. . .”

  1. Mm, I think you were right not giving what transpired during the Fall Site Uptime Conference much credit. However, what I initially interpreted as some light hearted ribbing of Microsoft and Google persisted into what I would call an outright attack. It was nothing short of a rally cry by Ken Brill aimed directly at Microsoft and Google. I sat in the audience dumbfounded wondering what I had missed that may have provoked the attack. I was further confused by the references by Ken to “poor Data Center Managers being beaten up by their exec’s over their PUE numbers”. I thought “is this true”? And if so, don’t they know they are comparing apples to oranges?

    I think it was the rally-cry overtones that gave rise to my suspicions that there was an ulterior motive behind the attack. What did Ken Brill stand to gain by all of this? Was it just to stir up controversy? This got me thinking on how repetitive and tired the Uptime conferences seemed to be getting over the past couple of years, talking about the same old issues and trying to come up with new ways to improve our uptime through identification of best practices and lurking vulnerabilities. After all, the continuous improvement wheel turns slower and slower over time and once you’ve grabbed all of the low hanging fruit it becomes harder and harder to come up with something worthy of the list.

    A monumental shift in the focus of the Uptime Institute has just taken place before our very eyes. Or so it may seem (we only meet twice per year). It seems just yesterday we were talking about uptime. Today it’s all about efficiency. And I have to tell you it has actually breathed some life back into these Site Uptime conferences. I commented after the conference that it was one of the best I had attended and attributed it to the topics of discussion. Perhaps this is Ken Brill’s angle… To stir up controversy and re-energize a stagnant forum. I didn’t notice a great desire to discuss solutions to the problems which could confirm my suspicions. However, Ken did offer an approach to his version of a solution on multiple occasions which consisted of stripping away anything that would differentiate one data center from another (I’m sorry Ken but even if you peel away the skin you are still comparing apples to oranges). Take away every good/responsible decision a data center builder has made and what are you actually comparing and what good is the data? Maybe Ken is chasing a solution with blinders on and doesn’t see that there is a much simpler solution. Maybe he actually believes what he is saying to be truth. I personally find it hard to believe that he does.

    It’s a little concerning to me that people may perceive comments by Ken Brill, (potentially) aimed at creating controversy, to be the thoughts and beliefs of the network members. I hope that isn’t the case. I’m sure I wasn’t the only member in the audience that was taken off guard by references to FM’s being criticized or “beaten up” by exec’s over their PUE numbers, or how MS and Google are now our enemies. Nor was I the only member not to heed the rally cry. No, I think Ken was standing out on that limb by himself last week.

    I agree with mm in that now is not the time to discard our Uptime memberships. I think it’s a good network made up of good people with good intentions and there is a lot we can accomplish together. I don’t however feel that tying the PUE standard to a tier level will get us where we need to be. I think you would still be comparing apples to oranges. I have another idea, although I won’t attempt to take credit for it as Ken Brill tried to take credit for inventing PUE last week (I hope you find that as humorous as I did). This idea was the result of some offline discussions amongst the “network members”.

    There should be a “design” PUE number that is calculated using standard parameters (which should be developed by the smart people of Uptime and Green Grid). The “design” PUE is the optimal PUE number that a specific site can obtain based on parameters such as site selection, tier level, equipment used, design set points, etc. A target, if you will, that represents all decisions leading up to the construction of a data center. Once commissioned and brought online, an “actual” PUE can be easily calculated. The “actual” PUE when compared to the “design” PUE will show you how efficient you are operating your data center. The “design” PUE divided by the “actual” PUE will yield a number less than one and can be used as a percent efficiency indicator.

    Adopting this method allows data center builders/operators to tell two stories. First, by creating a “design” PUE number, companies like Microsoft and Google can show the world that they are responsible in their decisions, eco-friendly, or have made a technological leap through software solutions, and wouldn’t we all like to learn from that. And, they could do so without being attacked because how they have determined their “design” PUE has been presented and unless you intend to build a carbon copy there is no sense comparing your data center to theirs. Since we are no longer comparing ourselves with our peers, there is no longer any reason to feel threatened. Jealous perhaps, but not threatened. Second, by measuring our “actual” PUE, it allows us to show the world (primarily ourselves) how well we are doing compared to how well we could be doing. We now have a target and we now have a way to gage how close we are to that target. The closer to our “design” PUE, the more efficiently we are operating our data center. We are now comparing apples to apples.

    Now divide the “design” PUE by the “actual” PUE and you have a percentage value of efficiency that can be compared (apples to apples) between data centers. For example, which is better, a data center designed at a PUE of 1.2 operated at a PUE of 1.7 or a data center designed to 1.5 operated at a PUE of 1.7? They are both operating at a PUE of 1.7, however the efficiency rating of the first example is 70% and the efficiency rating of the second example is 88%. So even though the second example was designed at a higher PUE, it is being operated more efficiently. Criticize me for my data center design but don’t “beat up” the poor data center manager who is operating at an 88% efficiency.

    I think it’s important to tell both sides of the story. More importantly, we need to stop this insane practice of comparing our PUE numbers with other PUE numbers. For what it’s worth mm, don’t be too disappointed, most of us are way too busy working on our own PUE numbers to buy in to the Ken Brill hype, not because we are being bullied but because it’s the right thing to do for the environment and it can save us serious dollars.


  2. It would be a lot better if you and google started to quote avarage Watts per MHz figures on servers and watts per GB on storage … the rest follows.

  3. Mn is being too nice. It is time to ask if Uptime is providing any real value these days when practicing experts like Mm are going out of their way to share their best practices.

    Is Uptime’s time up? Is it time for non-profit industry groups like the Green Grid to taken on these issues without worrying about having to generate profit from their conferences?
    May be Mr Brill could use some downtime on an island far away!

  4. Contrarian make a good point, what prople forget about is that TUI is a for profit org, and you have to take that into account.

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