Christian Belady is an optimist, even about tough computing challenges like the huge increases in power and cooling in high-density "hot spots" in data centers.
"It's not a crisis, it's an opportunity," said Belady, a Distinguished Technologist at HP and the keynote speaker Tuesday at AFCOM's Data Center World conference in Las Vegas. "Are we ready to jump on this problem and tackle it with the right resources? People talk about this as a crossroads for the data center, and that's what it is."
To properly tackle the power and heat challenges, data center managers must first equip themselves with the right tools. Belady believes new metrics and standards will be the key weapons in the effort to gain control of data center management, and that the operating environment will continue to be challenging.
"The real driver behind this is the fact that the cost of computation is going down," said Belady. "The problem is going to get worse. As the price goes down, demand goes up. I think what you're going to see is the commoditization of the data center. Standardization will create a plug-n-play environment."
Belady sees hope in the fact that the industry's leading players have begun to work effectively together in initiatives to develop metrics and best practices in venues such as ASHRAE, the Uptime Institute and the Green Grid consortium. These efforts have brought significant movement toward consensus on metrics for server power performance and power usage effectiveness (PUE) in the data center.
"This is hard work," Belady said. "I think the fact that we're able to get all these parties together in these efforts is proof that it can be done. The reality is that if we don't do it ourselves, someone will do it for us, and then it may not be something that makes sense."
He noted that the EPA's ongoing study of data center energy efficiency, which was requested by Congress last year, is expected to be released on June 7. "They have valid concerns," he said. "What's satisfying to me is that (the industry and the EPA) are working together. Everyone seems to have a common cause."
"Everyone is saying 'think green,' " he said. "But it will save you money. The key is to understand your data center and where you're overprovisioning. In large data center operations, how they do this is what differentiates them from the competition."