Friday, October 31, 2008

Follow-the-moon, sustainable power?

“Customer service desks follow-the-sun while IT operations follow-the-moon like Richmond (behind the Red Door) in The IT Crowd!” (Alan in Belfast!)

In a world that never rests, global companies with global customers are starting to run help desks spaced out at eight hour intervals across the globe, providing their customers with support no matter where they are or what time it is, as well as minimising the need for overtime payments and crazy shift patterns. It’s referred to as follow-the-sun.

Still from Susan Watt's Newsnight report on global warming by computer (c) 2008 BBC

But last night’s report on global warming by computer from Newsnight’s science editor Susan Watts introduced a variant on that phrase - follow-the-moon.

It’s a method of minimising data centre power requirements (and costs) by always running the applications and servers that support business processes in locations that are in darkness.

Outside of the business day, temperatures are cooler, reducing the aid conditioning required in the vast data centre halls, often the size of several football pitches. (Using any country’s or culture’s definition of football!)

And out of hours, demand is lower and electricity suppliers offer cheaper off-peak rates, further reducing the cost to businesses.

So as long as you can afford to replicate the hardware infrastructure in multiple locations (two or at most three) and can virtualise the software and seamlessly shift it between servers (in different locations) without customers noticing, follow-the-moon offers a way to cut power requirements and cut costs.

Iceland offers another saving for data centre operators: air conditioning controlled by opening the data centre door a bit wider to let more of the artic wind blow up and down the aisles!

If you’re interested in green technology and sustainability - as it applies to enterprises - check out Tom Rafferty’s regular musings over at Greenmonk.

1 comment:

G C said...

but does the cost (financial and energy) of running two data centers really outweigh the costs of cooling?