When it comes to data centers, Microsoft and eBay think very much alike. At least in the sense that they both believe that one thing -- the availability of electricity -- will be the ultimate dictator of data center design principles in the next decade.
I wrote about eBay's new data center growth philosophy last week in my coverage of the Uptime Institute's Symposium 2010. Rob Bernard, chief environmental strategist for Microsoft, says there are three things that really drive the need for more power: new services (this is good!), traditional operational policies (inefficient!) and the way that applications are architected and developed.
Indeed, Bernard says one of the biggest sticking points for data center power consumption comes down to the applications. That's because if an application is not "power-aware," no amount of power management at the operating system or hardware level will be effective. This matters in several ways. First, if applications don't accommodate energy considerations, they will consume an ever-larger portion of your operational budget. And if they don't take advantage of power-efficiency improvements in your hardware, they won't allow you to take advantage of basic power reduction opportunities.
"We need to think about architecting applications in different ways that are energy-aware," Bernard says.
In other words, if developers today think about resiliency, security and efficiency as core design principles, the energy-awareness principle now needs to be accommodated.
What are the consequences of NOT doing this? "There is a freight train coming that you cannot see," Bernard says. "You will run out of power in your data center." It all comes down to reducing the number of watts a company uses per transaction.
Pure and simple.
Microsoft is keenly aware of this, of course, and it is working diligently to share its part of the burden, according to Bernard. One way that the company plans to force this new sort of thinking is by shifting to an energy-chargeback model meters its internal teams and divisions and charges them accordingly for their consumption. The challenge in this is setting base-line metrics, something that Microsoft is still struggling to do. But, pushing costs back on the place where they are created is one of the fastest ways to change behavior, Bernard says.