Maslow Revisited: A Power Hierarchy of Needs

If you’ve taken any psychology, you’re probably come across Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This landmark model, often illustrated with a pyramid, explores human needs, from the most basic physiological level to the ultimate state of self-actualization.

While I won’t promise you anything quite so lofty, I will suggest that Maslow’s hierarchal approach to understanding human needs creates a workable model for understanding the power management needs in your data center. So let’s walk through this power hierarchy of needs.

Efficient equipment—As a first step, use efficient servers, storage systems, and networking devices. For example, better motherboard designs can increase thermal efficiency and allow fans to run at lower speeds. And integrated power gates within a CPU can allow individual idling cores to drop to near-zero power consumption.

Efficient facility designs—Design and modify your data center facilities to conserve energy and make optimum use of your cooling and air handling systems. One basic step is to use hot and cold server aisles so you don’t mix hot exhaust air from servers with cool air from the chiller.

Consolidated systems—Use virtualization or other techniques to consolidate your environment to a smaller number of better-utilized systems. And then turn off the power to all those unused systems.

Power capping—Place power caps on underutilized systems. With the right tools and systems, you can throttle system and rack power usage based on expected workloads. This capability, in turn, can allow you to place more servers in your racks, to make better use of both power and space.

Workload optimization—Use intelligent workload placement to improve thermal dynamics and optimize energy usage. The idea is to dynamically move workloads to the optimal servers based on power policies.

If you take all of these steps, I can’t say that you’ll reach a self-actualized state, as in Maslow’s hierarchy. But I can promise that you’ll be operating a more efficient data center and making better use of your power dollars.