Thursday, March 3, 2016

Scale Up to the mega Data Center

While we're in the midst of a massive shift toward mega Data Centers for Cloud and co-location, I thought it would be interesting to start to explore what could possibly happen next.

In order to understand this, its incredibly important to understand why this is happening.  The economics of the data center landscape is controlled in large part by PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness, which introduces major variables in delivering the consumption side economics that drive toward the value chain mode of Utility (or commodity if you prefer).

Google went further and identified 19 variables that affect the efficiency of a Data Center.

In order to adjust the PUE variables in a meaningful way, the Data Center must be industrialized to an extraordinary extent.  At the scale of this industrialization, the variables that affect the Data Center at larger scale are much more relevant than they are in smaller sized Data Centers and thus provide a means to achieve higher levels of PUE while decreasing the work effort necessary to achieve them.

This is where the mega Data Centers have chosen to attack (manipulate, see Wardley chart below) the problems associated with Data Center efficiency.

Wardley Value Chain

But there are limits to the industrialization capabilities, particularly power delivery.  In essence, there is a limit, based on a combination of power generation location and available delivery mechanisms when we start thinking about multi-megawatt facilities.  Put another way, it becomes increasingly expensive to build Data Centers larger than the local generation (supply) and transport (delivery) of electricity.

This is effectively the complete Scale Up of the supply side for Data Centers, square footage plus electricity, that achieves the goals of optimized control of the variables of PUE.

Keeping this in mind, let's think about the groundwork for what happens after.

One relatively good attack point in continuing the Scale Up is optimizing the efficiency of electricity delivery.  Data Centers really need to get from AC (transport) to DC (computer consumption) with fewer steps, with power cost savings order of magnitude of ~ 8%.  At multi-megaWatt size, it would not be insignificant.

"Evaluating the Opportunity for DC Power in the Data Center" by Mark Murrill and B.J. Sonnenberg, Emerson Network Power 

where they reference

"Evaluation of 400V DC distribution in telco and data centers to improve energy efficiency", Annabelle Pratt ; Intel Corp., Hillsboro ; Pavan Kumar ; Tomm V. Aldridge


"400-V DC Distribution in the Data Center Gets Real" , Don Tuite


If the industry continues to function the way it has historically, the step after Scale Up is Scale Out.

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