A Holistic Approach to Computing More while Consuming Less in the Data Center

AMD has done some fantastic things of late, especially in terms of helping Dell increase our virtualization performance on PowerEdge servers and blades. I follow our friends at AMD regularly and came across a blog called “A Socket Full of Growth.”

In his post, John Fruehe, director of business development for server and workstations at AMD, claims makes the case that it is more time and cost effective to replace a processor than to buy new servers. He says, “Here's a little secret for you: the real hero is the person that figures out how to get more performance out of their servers without having to tear those servers out of the racks.”

In deference to our partners AMD and Mr. Fruehe, there are times when it makes sense to upgrade a processor for investment protection. And Dell fully supports the PIN compatible AMD Opteron processors in our servers. But that’s not the full story.

Here's a little secret for you, Mr. Fruehe: the real hero is the person that figures out how to get the most useful IT work out of each server, not just power.

I have the opportunity to spend a lot of with customers (as a matter of fact I’m in Sweden right now on a customer tour) talking about how the current model of managing data center productivity and efficiency is just not sustainable. Utilization is the key to accessing the full potential of a data center. Just swapping out a chip and increasing the compute power of a server will not solve the issue of utilization. It will exaggerate the initial problem: under-utilized CPUs.

According to a recent server utilization study (from a Dell Labs study done in Nov. 2008, entitled "Production Server Utilization Study") businesses are actually taking less advantage of gains in compute power in each new generation of server. The same study found that approximately one-quarter of servers handle the majority of actual work in the data center. This means that an unbelievable amount of server capacity is essentially wasted.

So, if this is the reality, making an underutilized server more powerful with a chip upgrade is not doing much good.

Dell is committed to helping companies compute more and consume less with our “Reveal your Hidden Data Center” strategy. We help companies take a holistic approach to improve data center productivity and energy efficiency by evaluating server virtualization and consolidation, refreshing legacy systems, raising the data center temperature, using containment and moving cooling closer to IT. By doing this we were able to reduce our own IT costs by more than $29 million. You won’t get that by simply swapping a processor.

Imagine you are the manager of the bus system in a major city and you notice that you are losing money hand over fist. When you look at the data, you notice that the buses are older and use a lot of gas. But, you also notice that each bus running has an average of only five passengers. So, is the right solution to swap out the old bus engines for more powerful and efficient engines? Or is the right solution to reevaluate your bus routes to maximize passenger traffic (and, of course, put some money into marketing)?

I say the latter.

About the Author: Albert Esser