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Why Facebook, eBay Measure Power And Water Consumption In Their Data Centers

Mar 16 2014, 6:25pm CDT | by , in News | Misc

Why Facebook, eBay Measure Power And Water Consumption In Their Data Centers
 
 

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Why Facebook, eBay Measure Power And Water Consumption In Their Data Centers

Cloud services companies like Facebook and eBay have a vested interest in making their data centers as energy-efficient and water-efficient as possible, not just because it makes for a good public relations message but because they can’t scale operationally without these metrics in place.

Because measuring this sort of thing in a way that matters to the financial team or business division heads is still a pretty new concept, both companies were forced to develop their own measurement approaches to tease out the right information—both created management dashboards to express and visualize the data in ways that would help them make decisions.

eBay published the methodology behind its metric, called Digital Service Efficiency, in March 2013. Now, Facebook has published the best practices and source code behind similar frameworks that it uses to track both power consumption and water usage. (An example is in the image below.) It did this as part of the company’s Open Compute Project, under which it has shared the hardware and software designs for its data centers.

“Since not all operational systems aggregate data in the same way, we’ve separated the code into two pieces: a front-end [user interface] component and a back-end data aggregator that may be helpful for those with systems similar to ours,” writes a member of the Facebook sustainability team. “The two components work together—or they can be used separately.”

Cloud service provider Rackspace worked with Facebook prior to the release of the methodology, and it is mulling whether to these dashboard in its data center facilities. I would be surprised if it doesn’t.

For perspective on why these sorts of dashboards matter way beyond any green business agenda (even though that’s an intriguing side effect), it’s useful to relate a conversation I had last fall with Dean Nelson, who is eBay’s vice president of global foundation services.

In first quarter after eBay put its Digital Service Efficiency Dashboard in place, one of the company’s developers discovered that by making a software coding change for one of its services, it could save eBay from having to update a pool of 400 servers. This helped save about $200 million that would have been required to update or replace them, plus it also reduced about $1 million in operational expenditures related to electricity bills.

eBay uses the dashboard—which measures IT infrastructure against carbon emissions and energy consumption—to create two internal lists: one that shows the most efficient servers in the company and one that highlights the worst ones.

“That visibility drives behavior,” Nelson told me last fall. “If you can’t see it, how do you tune for it? Now, we have a way to measure the entire fleet of equipment we have, how well it is deployed inside, and then how it is being used. Just like driving your car.”

The extent to which cloud services companies can scale—companies from Facebook and Microsoft to eBay and Amazon—will be closely tied to metrics of this nature in the future. Not just for electricity but for water, which is used widely to help keep data center facilities cool.

But any company that relies heavily on data centers for delivering customer-facing services or information could benefit from  measures of this nature.

Source: Forbes

 

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