Starting a cultural change in IT, think about power as a precious resource, 2 monitoring tools

Coming from the Gartner Data Center Conference where energy efficiency was regularly discussed. It is easy to think that what needs to be done is to tell people they need to change.

The conference is still going on, but I am back home. And, have time to think.

24 hours ago I had this view.


Now I have this view working from home. 


Cultural problem,getting people to measure power

Someone at the Gartner Conference asked me how to bridge the energy monitoring problem between IT and facilities with organizational obstacles to collaborate.  There are plenty of people at Gartner and the vendors that would be ready for advice on a top down approach and how energy monitoring needs to be put in place, requiring big equipment deployments, monitoring software and consulting hours. 

But, let me contrast a simple approach to the problem that doesn’t require a bunch of consultants.  Why contrast a different approach?  Because, I would rather sit at home and think of cool things than spend 50% of my time or more sitting in conference rooms on the road.  Which is also a lot greener.

So, let’s start with some ideas that a typical consultant is not going to tell you.

People don’t want to change

People don’t want to to change their behaviors.  And change is resisted for illogical reasons.   I could go into the illogical explanations, but that is a whole long post.  An example of a problem is the resistance to implement and share information across IT and facilities on power used by various parts of the data center infrastructure and IT equipment.

How do you address the resistance?  I fall back on ideas from my Aikido training where a sensei (teacher) explains being able to see where there is movement and blending with the motion is much easier than starting movement from none.

Changing people’s thinking is difficult until they start to move their own thoughts. So, look for those who are already moving.

I have been surprised numerous times to find people who have wanted to measure the energy consumption of IT equipment and data center infrastructure, but they didn’t have the tools or support.

Seed the motivated with equipment

Two Pieces of equipment to consider using are circuit monitoring and power monitoring power strips.

Mike Manos blogged his experience using non-intrusive clamping device to measure power.

I received a CL-AMP IT package from the Noble Vision Group to review and give them some feedback on their kit.   The first thing that struck me was that this kit seemed to essentially be a power metering for dummies kit.    There were a couple of really neat characteristics out of the box that took many of the arguments I usually hear right off the table.


First the “clamp” itself in non-intrusive, non-invasive way to get accurate power metering and results.   This means contrary to other solutions I did not have to unplug existing servers and gear to be able to get readings from my gear or try and install this device inline.  I simply Clamped the power coming into the rack (or a server) and POOF! I had power information. It was amazingly simple. Next up -  I had heard that clamp like devices were not as accurate before so I did some initial tests using an older IP Addressable power strip which allowed me to get power readings for my gear.   I then used the CL-AMP device to compare and they were consistently within +/- 2% with each other.  As far as accuracy, I am calling it a draw because to be honest its a garage based data center and I am not really sure how accurate my old power strips are.   Regardless the CL-AMPS allowed me a very easy way to get my power readings easily without disrupting the network.  Additionally, its mobile so if I wanted to I could move it around you can.  This is important for those that might be budget challenged as the price point for this kit would be incredibly cheaper than a full blown Branch Circuit solution.

For monitoring individual IT equipment you can use a power monitoring strip like Raritan’s.  Here is an 8 port device.

Dominion PX CR8-15

Raritan's Dominion® PX Intelligent Remote Power Management Solutions help IT administrators improve uptime and staff productivity, save money and improve utilization of power resources.

With the Dominion PX:

  • Emergencies can be resolved with remote serial and TCP/IP access to outlet-level switching, improving MTTR.
  • Capacity planning is simplified with unit-level and outlet-level power utilization information.
  • Staff can gather detailed power information to improve uptime and productivity.
  • Travel costs and time can be saved with remote power cycling and monitoring.

Information provided by the Dominion PX — displayed at the strip via an LED display, and remotely through a Web browser — can be used to improve capacity planning through power consumption information for both the PDU and individual receptacle. Precise, outlet-level access and control allows users to reboot attached devices.

There are many choices out there, and the above two will get you started on your search.

Use a viral strategy

I was talking about viral strategy and a person said I don’t get it.  “What is viral?”  Here is a good explanation of a viral ideas.

What makes an idea viral?

For an idea to spread, it needs to be sent and received.

No one "sends" an idea unless:
a. they understand it
b. they want it to spread
c. they believe that spreading it will enhance their power (reputation, income, friendships) or their peace of mind
d. the effort necessary to send the idea is less than the benefits

No one "gets" an idea unless:
a. the first impression demands further investigation
b. they already understand the foundation ideas necessary to get the new idea
c. they trust or respect the sender enough to invest the time

This explains why online ideas spread so fast but why they're often shallow. Nietzsche is hard to understand and risky to spread, so it moves slowly among people willing to invest the time. Numa Numa, on the other hand, spread like a toxic waste spill because it was so transparent, reasonably funny and easy to share.

Buy some of these tools and give them to some of the people who want to measure energy consumption.  Tell them if they know of someone else that can use the tools, they can request an additional equipment deployment.  The one request you have is to get a report on what they discover is the energy consumption of their devices.

As you discover useful information start to share the information. You will discover some interesting data.

What are you after?  A cultural shift where people regularly talk of the kilowatts used by systems. Where these is waste, and where there are efficiencies.

Keep in mind there is a viral aspect of the ideas. I wrote an article for Microsoft’s TechNet magazine last year.  Look at the below figure.  There was network switch that consumed 100 watts when powered off vs 350 watts when on.  This an example of something that would get people’s attention.

Figure 4 Power-consumption comparison of on versus off

You are driving for the same behavior change as those who drive a Prius with instant MPG of the car and how the hybrid system is running.

Formalizing the power monitoring and data collection

After you get some momentum you want to start to bring some structure in power monitoring data collection.  Here are some areas I would suggest next.

  1. What is the actual power consumption of the device at idle, off, under load, peak, and expected loads?
  2. What are the expected power changes in a minimum, maximum configuration vs. planned?
  3. Can any of the components be upgraded to energy efficiency?  Hard drives, power supplies, or processors?
  4. Is energy savings turned on in the server BIOS and/or OS?  How much do you save with power management turned on vs. off?
  5. Are there alternative designs that can be tested?
  6. The biggest waste is over-provisioning. Do devices have to be as powerful as originally specified?  Keep in mind, this saves money as well as power.

Hope this help you think about how to change people’s behavior to ask “what is the power consumption?” whenever they talk about data center equipment.

BTW, this time of the year, I can enjoy looking at the lake, but we don’t go out on the lake as the dock is under water. Having come from a desert (Las Vegas) I find it nice to return to a  water environment.

In Chinese Taoist thought, water is representative of intelligence and wisdom, flexibility, softness and pliancy