Remember that energy efficiency is a moving target

If corporate call centers can use a "follow the sun" strategy -- where calls are handled 24x7 by shifting where they are answered to different regions of the world, why can't data centers use a "follow the moon" philosophy to shift workloads to places where electricity costs are lowest at a given point in time.That's one idea being contemplated by Harkeeret Singh, global head of energy and sustainable technology for Thompson Reuters.

If corporate call centers can use a "follow the sun" strategy -- where calls are handled 24x7 by shifting where they are answered to different regions of the world, why can't data centers use a "follow the moon" philosophy to shift workloads to places where electricity costs are lowest at a given point in time.

That's one idea being contemplated by Harkeeret Singh, global head of energy and sustainable technology for Thompson Reuters. I sat in on Singh's presentation about holistic enterprise energy efficiency during the recent Symposium 2010 conference held by the Uptime Institute in New York.

Singh says with energy prices increasing around the world, businesses have no choice but to become more energy efficient. Many of his ideas about how to do this are very familiar: rightsizing your IT infrastructure to use servers at a higher utilization and eliminating applications that have a lower value when the metrics of transaction per watt are considered. He even has some thoughts about how IT change requests are considered and prioritize for his company, which runs some 20 data centers that have a power capacity of 30 megawatts.

I was especially intrigued, however, by three of his ideas for moving forward, which I will share here briefly:

  1. Reconsider virtualization: Build data centers that use automate virtualization in such a way that it teleports applications to the server on which they will run most efficiently at a given moment in time.
  2. Futureproof your facilities design by running cable and power overhead, so that new cooling technologies can be used underneath the floor.
  3. Follow the moon, by configuring applications and workloads to shift to the data centers where electricity is cheapest at a given moment in time.

Singh's comments reminded me that what is considered world-class in energy efficiency right now won't necessarily by world-class tomorrow. So, feel free to celebrate today's victories in cutting power consumption, but keep in mind that there isn't necessarily an end game in sight.

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