Server Instrumentation and Power Capping – solving power & cooling issues in the data center

So are you among the approximately 40% of data center managers that are projected to run out of power or cooling capacity in the next 12-241 months and need new options to deal with ever increasing demand for compute capacity? In my discussions with IT professionals, it’s clear that a “business as usual” approach to the design and operation of the data center is no longer sufficient.

In the coming weeks, you will see a number of bloggers write about using Intel Xeon Processor 5500 (Nehalem) servers to refresh the data center – a concept first discussed on this site back in late 2007 - to more efficiently use limited power, cooling and floor space resources in the data center. Today, I want to touch on another means of addressing these issues at hand - using instrumentation as a source of data and controls to better monitor and manage the data center.

Individual pieces of the data & control picture have steadily come into the mainstream via instrumentation of individual server components. Think processors that allow power & frequency to be modulated. Power Supplies that report system level power consumption. Memory that reports its temperature. Fans that can scale RPMs and power to the actual air flow requirements. Really cool capabilities, but these somewhat fragmented sources of data and control don’t provide the capability to manage at the rack or data center level. The challenge at hand is to take all of these individual points of component instrumentation and develop system and data center level capabilities – what I call extended instrumentation – to provide unique and innovative tools that data center managers need.

One of the more exciting extended instrumentation capabilities that has evolved is power capping. Power limits or caps defined and communicated by console management software are enforced by system level functionality, enabling the ability to limit system power in a dynamic fashion. Applications of the use of power capping range from increasing performance density to temporarily shedding compute load to ride through power or thermal events in the datacenter to enabling power based dynamic resource balancing. Power Capping gives IT managers a tool to squeeze additional compute performance out of their existing data center – making more efficient use of their limited and valuable power, cooling and floor space resources to lower costs, improve availability and extend the life of the current data center.

Are you evaluating this capability? Are you using it already? I’m interested in discussing your thoughts on instrumentation and power capping.