The Internet of Things - Rambling Thoughts by Jim Fletcher
Well despite months of desire, and a total lack of spare time - I finally become an official blogger today. Thanks to Jeff Jenkins for his help in getting this going.
Over the last two years, as I have pioneered the energy management space for Tivoli, I have seen leading organizations begin to recognize that the historical organizational structure around datacenters does not represent well the needs for improved energy management. Unfortunately, in most datacenters, the team responsible for cooling and power, and the team responsible for IT (servers, applications, storage, etc.) report into different lines of the business. Even more unfortunately from an energy management perspective, neither organization is responsible for paying the power bill, and in most organizations, neither team is even aware of the power bill.
As a result, there is no natural incentive to reduce overall power consumption, unless some external factor like availability of power comes into play. This "green organizational disfunctionality" results in wasted spending on energy, and operational inefficiencies given that there is also limited integration between the multiple organizations responsible for the datacenter. Even when knowledge does exist within the IT organization with regards to power consumption, I have yet to see a datacenter, where the IT team is measured in any way on power consumption - instead, availability and performance are the two measurements that matter.
So how can we expect energy efficient datacenters if organizationally there is little focus, and no incentives are provided to reduce spending on energy, Thats the challenge that organizations need to address. I am seeing an emergence of limited discussions between these multiple teams, and I am seeing an occasional "incentive" from the c-level exec to begin looking at how to reduce energy costs, but only occasionally. Instead, most energy reduction today is coming from "tangential" changes such as virtualization.
For those customers who have made a focus on looking at the entire energy consumption lifecycle, significant cost reductions -- sometimes approaching 40% have been seen.
Many customers continue to measure temperature of their server racks using the "back of the hand" method. Unfortunately this is exactly what it says -- they walk the aisle with the back of their hand extended and when they feel a warmer than normal area, that is an area to be looked at further. Well, yes, that's not exactly scientific, but it has worked for years. Likewise power consumption was pre-determined from manufacturer's specs which generally means it was grossly overvalued.
But as we look at better optimizing our overall energy consumption, even a degree or two difference can make a big difference in our overall energy efficiency. The "back of the hand" method cannot provide that level of accuracy, so newer methods need to be implemented. Over the last few years, IBM has introduced direct measurement within their server family for both power consumption, as well as temperature reporting. With the direct reporting of this information, immediate and accurate information can be available and leveraged.
With the availability of more accurate information in a timely matter, datacenters can reduce their "energy buffer" . Typically customers have over-cooled, and over-powered. With the ability to detect even small deltas quickly and accurately, these buffers can be reduced and therefore overall energy consumption can be reduced.
But how does one get access to this information? Tivoli's ITM for Energy Management collects this server information from its embedded Active Energy Manager component. The data can be thresholded with events generated automatically when measured values exceed expected values. Reports can be generated or the information can be visualized in an operations console.
Having accurate and detailed information is just one element of an effective overall datacenter energy strategy -- but a very important one for sure.
Today was the beginning of a new era for IBM - we've been working with our industry partners to improve the energy and operational efficiency of buildings, and today we announced the availability of a bundled software solution that allows us to "listen to the building, and hear what it is telling us". From there we used our analytics to predict problems before they occur, or recognize problems when they occur while providing a mashup-based dashboard to visual the state of the monitored buildings.
Here's some press from the announcement:
IBM Unleashes Advanced Software
Solution for Smarter Buildings
IBM formally introduces its Intelligent Building Management software today -- an advanced solution that's being put to work at Tulane University's School of Architecture, The Cloisters of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the company's 35-building facility in Minnesota.
The software is designed to be an analytics and automation powerhouse that can help ramp up the environmental performance of any building, even ones that are 100 years old or more.
The product is the latest in a steady stream of solutions that IBM has unleashed in recent months to make the management of buildings, the energy and resources they use, and the transportation and virtual networks that connect them more efficient, more effective and more intelligent.
The software and its applications, which are being detailed today in an IBM Smarter Buildings Forum in New York, also are the results of the company's steadily increasing collaborative projects, partnerships and acquisitions -- all of which are aimed at positioning IBM as a dominant player in a nascent field that brings together IT, the built environment, vehicles and energy.
Here is an early look at the projects that will be featured during the forum:
While technology advancements in building management systems have made it possible to cull an immense amount of data on structures, the challenge has been to organize, analyze and present it swiftly to building owners and operators so they can proactively manage their properties -- as IBM Smarter Buildings Vice President David Bartlett said at GreenBiz Group's State of Green Business Forum this year.
The new software, which is supposed to be the most comprehensive product thus far in IBM's smarter buildings arsenal, is intended to address that need.
Earlier this week, IBM introduced its
Intelligent Operations Center for Smarter
Cities. The plug-and-play,
smarter-cities-in-a-box solution is expected to deliver high-powered systems and
network management capabilities to communities without the high price tag that
usually affixed to such technology.
As I watch more attention be focused on the "green datacenter", I was amazed that I had not yet seen someone talk about a "Smarter Datacenter". A smarter datacenter would reflect the wide range of improvements that one can make within the datacenter, whether it be improved processes, more effficient equipment, facilities improvements, or virtualization. While many of these areas are not even mentioned under energy management solutions, they are all part of making a datacenter smarter, and a "Smarter Datacenter is a Greener Datacenter".
So as we look at quantifying the energy impact of datacenter improvements, it isnt just about more efficient servers, or improved cooling -- its an aggregation of all we do as we work to improve datacenter efficiency, and thus reduce our overall energy impact.
As I speak on Smart Grid panels and work with members of our utility companies, I have been somewhat amazed at where the utilities are drawing their line of demarcation. The meter is the end of the world from the utilities perspective and they appear to have no desire to look beyond the meter -- into the home, or commercial building -- to better manage power and to understand more about the specific power usage by the consumer. There are emerging companies that are providing intelligence on the consumer side of the meter, but the utilities continue to stand clear of that space. But why -- well the reasons are many from security concerns around collecting and managing that level of data, to the fact that many utilities are still regulated and therefore have little real incentive to pursue more intelligence at the endpoint.
So what does this mean to the utility? I love parallels and I have to draw a parallel between the smart grid boundaries and what I have seen with my Internet Service Provider. Many years ago, the ISP was one's first point of access whenever one connected to the internet. The ISP provided email, and was the link to all services one wanted on the net. But that is no longer true. I personally never access my ISP's web portal, instead preferring other portals such as Google as my link to the web. My ISP is still there, but they now have no ability to obtain additional value from my connection through them because they have become simply a pipeline to the internet.
It appears the utilities are setting themselves up to become simply a "power provider" with minimal additional values to the consumer. For commercial buildings, solutions such as IBM's Intelligent Building Manager will be well positioned to talk to the "Smart Grid" while providing the intelligence needed to truly make a difference for the consumer. The utilities will continue to drive smart grid, but primarily for the producer side and the benefits that the utilities will see as they modernize the power distribution network. There is immeasurable value in that for the producers, and for consumers in the form of better availability, etc but much of the hype around the smart grid for two way interaction with consumers is just that -- hype ....