Containers Expo Blog Authors: Liz McMillan, Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White, Zakia Bouachraoui, Pat Romanski

Related Topics: Containers Expo Blog, @CloudExpo

Containers Expo Blog: Article

Datacenters, Virtualization, and the Promise of Cloud Computing

Get Your PUE and DCIE Straight, and Think Again About What You Want to Do

It's simple, really: Cloud Computing is a much cooler term than Virtualization. It's easier to say and easier to grasp immediately, even if it's not real specific.

But a squishy term like Cloud Computing lets people define it to mean whatever they want it to mean; its current vagueness means people might get misdirected a bit on whether the term means anything at all, and whether it can help them improve their businesses and lives.

A Virtual Analysis
Let's set that aside for a bit and put the focus back on virtualization. Because even though not all virtualization is Cloud Computing, all Cloud Computing requires virtualization.

I alluded recently to figures from a Terremark facility study that showed a 50% reduction in power requirements with virtualized versus non-virtualized resources. Virtualized resources are also said to increase productivity from the 10-15% range to the 80-85% range; the Terremark test showed that virtualized resources consume twice the power per square meter.

Thus, let's call this a 7X productivity improvement, divided in half by the extra power, or a 3.5X improvement in the power required for transaction. This works out to a power reduction of about 72%. Since we're working with rough numbers here--not trying to land anything on Mars--let's call it 70%.

As the cliched old sales pitch goes, "If I could offer you a 70% reduction in your utility bill, would you be interested?"

The Aluminum Analogy - Bear With Me
Before I was fortunate enough to get involved in the technology business, I spent a few years reporting on heavy industry, including mining. In those early days I learned that aluminum is one of the great power hogs on the planet.

Aluminum is abundant, and there's still enough to last for many centuries. But it doesn't occur naturally, so you have to extract it from ore. To do this, you have to melt it, at about 2,000 degrees F, then shoot a big jolt of electricity through it to tease out the good stuff.

This requires huge amounts of power, so much so that aluminum plants are almost invariably located near big hydroelectric power plants (the Tennessee Valley in the US, for example).


It takes about 15 kilowatt hours of electricity to create a kilogram of aluminum. So if you wanted to crank out, say, just a couple hundred pounds of it a day in your garage, Monday through Friday, you'd first need to make sure you can pay for 30,000 kilowatt-hours per month. That's $3,000 at 10 cents per kilowatt-hour.

World production of aluminum is about 30 million (non-metric) tons. That's about 27 billion kilograms, so requires about 405,000 gigawatt hours of power per year. This works out to a continuous power requirement of about 46 gigawatts, or about 2.3 percent of all the world's power. Just to make aluminum (or aluminium as most of our British Commonwealth friends say.) Keep recycling those cans!

The Contrast with Datacenters
I kept these figures in my head as I contemplated the power requirements for data centers. Everybody knows they require a lot of power, and that this requirement may already be in hockey-stick growth mode.

By way of contrast with aluminum, data-center requirements, according to an EPA report issued in 2007, at the time required 61 killowatt-hours in the US, representing about 1.5% of US consumption at the time, or 0.3% of world consumption. The report said further that this power requirement was expected to double in 2011. It hasn't quite reached aluminum's Olympian heights, but it's on the path to do just that. (Plus there are the untrivial power requirements associated with building all the chips, cases, cables, and buildings we'll need.)

PUE and DCIE - Easy to Grasp
Datacenters have also been focused on PUE (power usage effectiveness, although I always want to say efficiency) and its obverse, DCIE (Data Center Infrastructure Efficiency). The bad news here is that we've added two more ingredients to the industry alphabet soup; the good news is that these are very easy things to understand, if diabolically difficult to engineer and improve.


DCIE is a percentage, and PUE is a number. They both simply compare the amount of electricity you need for air-conditioning versus powering your servers. If the requirements are the same, you have a DCIE of 50% and a PUE of 2.0. In the perfect, platonic world, your DCIE is 100% (you don't need any air-conditioning) and your PUE is 1.0. In the real world, 50%-2.0 is average, and many datacenters are striving to reach levels between 67%-1.5 and 77%-1.3.

If the datacenter industry has doubled since the time of the EPA report I cited, then datacenters are now using $12-14 billion in electricity in the US on an annualized basis. This one's tricky, as local electricity rates per kilowatt vary in the 8- to 15-cent range. I just use 10 cents for now.

(The world offers a big contrast in rates as well. I pay 17 cents per kilowatt hour in the Southeast Asian country where I'm based right now, due to inefficient generation, monopoly local control, and a weak dollar. Meanwhile, the CEO of the big Tier III MEEZA datacenter in Qatar is quite happy to pay about 2.5 cents per kilowatt hour. I don't have a full grasp yet of how heat truly affects PUE, and how a tropical climate might affect things compared to a desert climate. The related question is how do bitter cold climates affect PUE? At what point do you have to start pumping in warm air instead of cold air? Is there such a point?)

Cut to the Chase
Engineers managing and building datacenters have a deep grasp of all this stuff. There is plenty of information online for those who want to dive in to at least the medium-deep part of the pool.

But to me, what's important is that C-Suite executives--and even more important, politicians--get a grasp of the dimensions of the problem. Quantum improvements in efficiency through virtualization (and by extension, Cloud Computing), along with incremental improvements in PUE can return many billions of dollars to the global economy through reduced power consumption.

Even as overall power consumption rises, we also need to measure what people and organizations are doing with all this virtualization and Cloud Computing. Are they offering improved government services? Are they improving urban traffic flows, creating smarter buildings, and reducing urban power requirements globally? Are they bringing new efficiencies, even capabilities, to smaller businesses and developing economies worldwide? Or are they just adding more pics to Facebook and harvesting Farmville?

More Stories By Roger Strukhoff

Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.

IoT & Smart Cities Stories
Druva is the global leader in Cloud Data Protection and Management, delivering the industry's first data management-as-a-service solution that aggregates data from endpoints, servers and cloud applications and leverages the public cloud to offer a single pane of glass to enable data protection, governance and intelligence-dramatically increasing the availability and visibility of business critical information, while reducing the risk, cost and complexity of managing and protecting it. Druva's...
At CloudEXPO Silicon Valley, June 24-26, 2019, Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with expanded DevOpsSUMMIT and FinTechEXPO programs within the DXWorldEXPO agenda. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive over the long term. A total of 88% of Fortune 500 companies from a generation ago are now out of business. Only 12% still survive. Similar percentages are found throug...
BMC has unmatched experience in IT management, supporting 92 of the Forbes Global 100, and earning recognition as an ITSM Gartner Magic Quadrant Leader for five years running. Our solutions offer speed, agility, and efficiency to tackle business challenges in the areas of service management, automation, operations, and the mainframe.
The Jevons Paradox suggests that when technological advances increase efficiency of a resource, it results in an overall increase in consumption. Writing on the increased use of coal as a result of technological improvements, 19th-century economist William Stanley Jevons found that these improvements led to the development of new ways to utilize coal. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Thiele, Chief Strategy Officer for Apcera, compared the Jevons Paradox to modern-day enterprise IT, examin...
With 10 simultaneous tracks, keynotes, general sessions and targeted breakout classes, @CloudEXPO and DXWorldEXPO are two of the most important technology events of the year. Since its launch over eight years ago, @CloudEXPO and DXWorldEXPO have presented a rock star faculty as well as showcased hundreds of sponsors and exhibitors! In this blog post, we provide 7 tips on how, as part of our world-class faculty, you can deliver one of the most popular sessions at our events. But before reading...
DSR is a supplier of project management, consultancy services and IT solutions that increase effectiveness of a company's operations in the production sector. The company combines in-depth knowledge of international companies with expert knowledge utilising IT tools that support manufacturing and distribution processes. DSR ensures optimization and integration of internal processes which is necessary for companies to grow rapidly. The rapid growth is possible thanks, to specialized services an...
At CloudEXPO Silicon Valley, June 24-26, 2019, Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with expanded DevOpsSUMMIT and FinTechEXPO programs within the DXWorldEXPO agenda. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive over the long term. A total of 88% of Fortune 500 companies from a generation ago are now out of business. Only 12% still survive. Similar percentages are found throug...
There are many examples of disruption in consumer space – Uber disrupting the cab industry, Airbnb disrupting the hospitality industry and so on; but have you wondered who is disrupting support and operations? AISERA helps make businesses and customers successful by offering consumer-like user experience for support and operations. We have built the world’s first AI-driven IT / HR / Cloud / Customer Support and Operations solution.
Codete accelerates their clients growth through technological expertise and experience. Codite team works with organizations to meet the challenges that digitalization presents. Their clients include digital start-ups as well as established enterprises in the IT industry. To stay competitive in a highly innovative IT industry, strong R&D departments and bold spin-off initiatives is a must. Codete Data Science and Software Architects teams help corporate clients to stay up to date with the mod...
Scala Hosting is trusted by 50 000 customers from 120 countries and hosting 700 000+ websites. The company has local presence in the United States and Europe and runs an internal R&D department which focuses on changing the status quo in the web hosting industry. Imagine every website owner running their online business on a fully managed cloud VPS platform at an affordable price that's very close to the price of shared hosting. The efforts of the R&D department in the last 3 years made that pos...