Continuing my coverage of the 30th annual [Data Center Conference]. Here is a recap of the other Monday morning keynote sessions:
- Driving Innovation to Achieve Dramatic Improvements
What is Innovation? It is a process that starts with one or more ideas, that results in change, that creates value. Easier said than done!
Innovation drives business growth. The analyst indicated that the IT infrastructure can either be in the way to impede business growth, neutral to enable growth, or contributing to business growth. Companies often find downtime as an inhibitor to business growth. The analyst gave these typical numbers.
Category Unplanned downtime (hours per year) Planned Downtime (hours per year) Important 61 <200 Business Critical 26 <50 Mission Critical 5 <12
A big inhibitor to change is "cultural inertia", which states that the way things are prevent what they could be. Change requires both rewards and measures. Employees are often uncomfortable with change. Motivation should be with carrots not sticks.
(I often joke that the only people who are comfortable with change are babies with soiled diapers and prisoners on death row!)
The impedence to change is further amplified by leadership because what got them into their positions was their history of success, and often leaders perpetuate what worked for them in the past.
"There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all."
--- Peter Drucker
Nothing lasts forever, and companies should not try to avoid the inevitable. Innovators need to see themselves as change agents. the analyst feels that less than 10 percent of IT will adopt innovation to enact dramatic change. The analyst took a poll of the audience asking: Why isn't your IT Infrastructure and Operations more innovative? Over 800 attendees responded. Here were the results:
The analyst suggests treating Innovation like a team sport, with small 2-5 person teams. Search for breakthrough opportunities by setting audacious goals to inspire innovative thinking. What approach are most people doing today? Here are some polling results:
The analyst suggest it is more important to establish a culture of innovation first, and process second. Skunkworks projects are back in favor. IT folks should avoid the worship of so-called "best practices" as a reason to avoid change in trying something different. To think "outside-the-box" you need to get outside the box, or office, or cubicle, or wherever you work that prevents you from interacting with your internal or external customers. Customers can bring great insights on new approaches to take.
One new approach, born in the Cloud and now coming to the Enterprise is the concept of [DevOps], which consists of promoting collaboration between the "Appplication Development" half of IT, with the "Operations" half. If you never had heard of DevOps before, you are not alone, most of the attendees at this conference hadn't either. Here are the poll results:
Some companies have instituted a "Fresh Eyes" program, asking new-hires and early-tenure employees questions like: What surprised you the most when you joined the company? Was there anything that didn't make sense to you? Do you have any ideas to improve the way we do things?
"In a time of crisis we all have the potential to morph up to a new level and do things we never thought possible"
– Stuart Wilde
Why wait for a crisis?
- Facebook: Efficient Infrastructure at a Massive Scale
Frank Frankovsky, the Director of Hardware and Design and Supply Chain at Facebook, was sitting right next to me in the audience. I didn't know this until it was his turn to speak, and he jumps up and walks to the stage! For those who live under a rock and/or are over 40 years old, Facebook is a social media site that allows people to maintain personal profiles, share photos, news and messages, play games, and create groups to organize events. They now support over 800 million accounts, a healthy percentage of the 1.9 billion people on the internet today.
Started in 2004, Facebook was originally hosted on standard server and storage hardware in colocation facilities. Facebook saved 38 percent costs by bringing their operations in-house, building their own servers from parts, and using no third-party software. Facebook has the advantage of owning their entire software stack, leveraging open source as much as possible. They even re-wrote their own PHP compiler, which they pronounce "Hip-Hop", short for high-performance-PHP.
Facebook can stand up a new data center in less than 10 months, from breaking ground to serving users. Most of Facebook's data centers sport a PUE less than 1.5, but their newest one in Prineville, Oregon is down to an amazing 1.07 level for a 7.5 Megawatt facility! How did they do it? Here are a few of their tricks:
- Use Scale-Out architecture. Having lots of small servers, scattered in various data centers, allows them to survive a server failure, as well as having the luxury to shut down a datacenter when needed for maintenance reasons.
- Free Cooling. Instead of air-conditioning, they pump in cold air from the outside, and send the heated exhaust back outdoors. Frank does not believe servers should be treated like humans, so their data centers run uncomfortably hot. The 50-year climate data is used to determine data center locations that have the optimal "free cooling" opportunities.
- Eliminate UPS and PDU energy losses. Rather than running 480 VAC power through UPS that represent a 6 to 12 percent loss, and then PDU that introduce another 3 percent loss getting down to 208 or 120 VAC, Frank's team builds servers that feed direclty off the 480 VAC from the power company. For backup power, they use 48VDC batteries. One set of batteries can backup six racks of servers.
- Target 6 to 8 KW per rack. Low-density racks are easier to keep cool.
- Build their own IT equipment. Rather than buying commercially-available servers, Frank's team builds 1.5 U servers based on Intel "Westmere" chipset. 1.5U allows for larger fan radius than standard 1U pizza box format. (IBM's iDataPlex uses 2U fans for the same reason!) Facebook has a "Vanity free" design philosophy, so no fancy plastic bezels. In most cases, the covers are left off. Most (65 percent) of their servers are web front-ends. They plan new IT equipment based on Intel's "Sandy Bridge" chipset.
- Use SATA drives. They buy the largest SATA drives available, directly from manufacturers, in direct-attach storage (DAS) in their servers. Data is organized in a Hadoop cluster, and they have developed their own internal "Haystack" for photo storage. Despite the floods in Thailand, Facebook has secured all the SATA disk they plan to buy for 2012 from their suppliers.
- Use Solid-State drives. Their Database tier uses 100 percent Solid-State drives.
Frank is also a founder for the [Open Compute Project], which takes an "Open source" approach to IT hardware.
Facebook does not bother with hypervisors. Instead, they have adapted their own software to make full use of the CPU natively. This eliminates the "I/O Tax" penalty associated with VMware and other hypervisors.
Of course, not everyone owns their entire software stack, and can build their own servers! It was nice to hear how a company without such limitations can innovate to their advantage.