"Moore's law will be stuck in the labs unless users find a way to solve the energy crisis in their datacentres."
That is the stark warning issued last week by William T Clifford, CEO and chairman of datacentre management software specialist Aperture.
Clifford, the former CEO of analyst firm Gartner, said that while many hardware vendors had realised that energy efficiency was going to be a major battleground in the future and were referencing energy efficiency in every press release they issue, customers were still guilty of "sticking their heads in the sand".
"The problem is [energy] is an ugly, difficult issue and you need capital expenditure from the board to solve the problem," he explained. "Do you want to go to the board and ask for millions to sort out your datacentre or do you want to bury your head in the sand for another year? The answer is most IT directors want to bury their head in the sand."
Aperture is seeking to tackle this problem with the release earlier this week of VISTA 500, the latest edition of its datacentre management suite for monitoring and modeling the power, cooling and connectivity requirements of the physical assets within a datacentre.
The system monitors and models the datacentre environment based on the specifications of individual devices and in some cases data provided from environmental sensors (although Clifford said there was need for a standards body in this area to make integration with all the different sensors on the market easier). It can then warn administrators if there is a hot spot or other risk that could affect availability and help them optimise design to reduce risks and energy costs.
But, as Clifford observed, the system is only installed in around 100 places, "so there are a lot of companies out there that simply don’t have any handle on their datacentre's power consumption". He argued that this lack of visibility meant many firms were operating sub optimal datacentres and incurring higher costs and availability risks as a result.
This situation is tolerated, according to Clifford, partly because datacenters are so critical to many firms operations that executives are willing to throw money at them and partly because there is a "naïve assumption that if you have problems getting power in it can be resolved quickly".
He argued that in many geographies this was no longer the case. "You can't phone up your electricity provider and say I need some more power and they will just deliver," he said.
Astute firms, such as Google and Yahoo have realised this, Clifford said, and moved their datacentres to locations in Washington state near a hydro electric power station.
Meanwhile, those firms that continue to ignore energy issues will be forced to undertake massive datacentre building projects to maintain business continuity. "High density servers will obsolete most datacentres in the next ten years due to the problems of getting enough power into the centre," warned Clifford.
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