Monday, 23 February 2009

PUE, DCiE, what’s it all about?

PUE is a metric developed by The Green Grid to measure Power Usage Effectiveness, which compares the total facility power usage against the IT power load. DCiE (Data Centre infrastructure Efficiency) is simply the inverse of PUE reported as a percentage. What do these figures actually tell us? They give a snap shot in time of a data centre or computer room's power use which can be used to suggest how efficiently your data centre's plant equipment is running. One of the main problems with PUE and DCiE is that the results tend to vary depending on the weather conditions at that particular moment in time. For example, if you took PUE measurements at 6am and again at 2pm, the difference in outside temperature and humidity would affect how hard your plant would have to work. A higher outside temperature requires air conditioning chillers to work harder to cool the same load, which has a significant impact on power usage. To make effective use of PUE and DCiE, reading need to be taken regularly to get an averaged result.

OK, so now we are in recession. There are, and will be more, calls for spending cuts and more efficiency from existing hardware and our staff. PUE and DCiE can play an important part in this. But where to start? As we are talking data centres, look at the power consumption. Or more accurately, look to see if you can look at the power consumption. It is amazing how many data centres and computer rooms, even the new builds don’t have metering installed to monitor power consumption. Data centres are estimated to contribute 3% of the CO2 emissions globally, yet the vast majority of data centre managers have no idea how much energy their facility consumes – let alone where to start making savings.

How do you get on with your company’s Facilities Manager? Putting that aside, it’s imperative that there is a good working relationship between these vastly important departments (IT and Facilities) as these two hold the key to reducing energy consumption, and therefore costs, more than any other department. Look at it from the Facility’s Managers point of view. He has little if any impact on what is installed in the data centre. All he or she will see is the monthly or quarterly electricity bills coming in with little idea of where to reduce costs, or indeed, where the costs are coming from. Keeping him/her in the picture is incredibly important. Working together to install electricity meters to enable the PUE and DCiE to be calculated and logged on a regular basis is a start. It is also imperative to log your consumption regularly by taking meter readings and trending the power usage, what impacts it and what changes it.

How much will you save by installing this meters? Without proper metering, who knows?

Migration Solutions is a member of The Green Grid which is focused on advancing efficiency in data centres. They have also recently received Information Age's award for Best Data Centre Innovation 2008 for ERA - an Environmental Report and Audit which aims to help data centre owners to save money and the environment with no or little financial outlay.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

All that glisters is not Green...

Back at Migration Solutions we're getting ready for the Data Centre World Conference & Expo next week in London (at the Barbican, 24-25 Feb) and, in addition to the usual preparations - which include making sure we have enough business cards, packing the company brochures and shining our shoes - Migration Solutions' MD Alex Rabbetts has been rehearsing for his speaker slot at the conference on a subject he's particularly passionate about. Entitled, 'All that Glisters is not Green: Real World Solutions to Increasing Efficiency, Cutting Costs and Reducing Environmental Impact' (3.15pm on 24 Feb), he sees this as his opportunity to highlight how IT industry greenwash is seriously in danger of spinning itself out of control.

As Alex has been saying for sometime, and now the mainstream media are beginning to pick up on (see Charles Arthur's excellent article in The Guardian: Greenwash? and let's start with that screen) Datacentres are not green and are not likely to be green for the foreseeable future. With some effort however they can be made greener (and btw, better, more efficient and cheaper!). Alex’s point is that Greenwash goes from being mildly amusing to dangerous when the hype starts to numb us to more modest (but real) benefits that can be achieved from the serious and sensible work of making our IT infrastructure greener.

Come along to the Data Centre World conference if you want to hear a great presentation from someone who's 'browned off' with how 'Greenwash' is blinding the industry to the serious solutions that can take the data centre power bill out of the ‘red’ … and reduce emissions too!

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Money Vs Environment

In these financially turbulent times, has everyone forgotten about the environment? Companies around the world have had their budgets slashed, all un-necessary projects stopped and anything to do with the environment put on hold until financial stability can be found again. Most people in the western hemisphere have been affected by the credit crunch in one way or another, some more than others, but it appears that the biggest loser has been the
environment. Six months ago everyone was cutting down paper use, recycling every scrap and utilising more efficient products but now people are more worried about saving money, sweating assets and managing to getting by. Can the two not go hand in hand?

100% efficiency is the final goal of any technology be it the combustion engine, kettles or computer chips. The growing trend in the car manufacturing market is for small, efficient cars that are cheap to tax, insure and run. They give consumers better value for money, albeit at a sacrifice of space, but even big cars like the hybrid Lexus GS 450h and the RX 400h 4x4 are embracing advances in electric engine and battery technologies to save their owners money. Sticking with the car theme, city car sales are up 17% while luxury and 4x4 sales are down over 40% each. What is the result of this boom in efficient, money saving designs? The environment is better off. Things that are good for the environment are good for our wallets!

Anyone who runs a data centre will know how expensive they are to power and cool and that any new technologies that save on these costs are embraced as soon as budgets will allow. Look at blade servers when combined with virtualisation software. A fully populated 10 bay blade chassis takes up 7U of rack space and will draw around 4kW of power. This is equivalent to 10, 2U servers, but they will draw around 5kW and take up 20U of rack space. When combined with virtualisation, you can combine many servers, over 100 instances on one physical server is possible ... seriously improving data centre efficiency.

Environmentally friendly plant is also a great way to save money. Free cooling chillers can significantly reduce the amount of money spent on cooling by using the ambient temperature to cool a data centre. In the UK, anywhere from 8 to 12 months of free cooling can be utilised every year, with up to 80% savings in power costs per month when it can operate without running the condensers. Fresh air cooling is even more efficient - you don't have any chillers, but replace them with large intake fans to cool the data centre from just the ambient temperature.

So the answer to the original question; Can money saving and environmental awareness go hand in hand? Yes! And there are huge savings to be made with very short returns on investment. Should everyone change all their IT and plant equipment straight away? No, because the imbedded carbon from physically creating the new equipment does not make replacing new or partly worn kit environmentally friendly, but as soon as it reaches its end of life invest in equipment to save the planet and save your wallet!

Migration Solutions is a specialist data centre consultancy and a member of the Green Grid. Winners of Information Age's award for Best Data Centre Innovation 2008 for ERA - an Environmental Report and Audit which aims to help data centre owwners to save money and the environment with no or little financial outlay.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Safety First

How safe is your data centre? A full populated 42U cabinet is 2.2 metres tall and IT servers can be 30kg. Would you lift the equivalent of half a teenager above your head without putting some kind of measures in place to protect yourself? Would you ask anyone else to do it for that matter? Health and Safety in the UK has become an area that businesses have to look at more and more carefully to protect their staff, their equipment, and themselves.

Data centres are dangerous places with high density power. Raised floors left open, leaving half a metre deep hole in the floor, are equally dangerous. In fact, there is virtually a trip hazard at every corner.

Do your staff know what to do in case of electric shock? Do your staff know how to lift a floor tile correctly? Is protective footwear used? How many times are removed floor tiles left at the side of of a gaping hole in the floor? Not only causing a trip a hazard, but a trip into the newly created floor void.

In 2007 35.3 in every 100,000 workers in the UK had a slip or trip injury at work. In an ideal world you would always have two people doing every physical job to minimise risk and strain but is this a practical measure?

What about lone working? Do you have man down alarms for lone workers? Do you allow lone working out of business hours?

Data centres are dangerous environments and they are relatively new to the employment world. HSE does cover working in them, but at the moment it seems that not enough data centre managers know their responsibilities as well as they should.

Migration Solutions are experienced data centre operators with a number staff working in a range of facilities in the UK. Migration Solutions also offers vendor independent consultancy and data centre migration.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Happy Birthday!

Facebook is 5 years old! For some, social networking sites are a great way to keep in touch with friends, catch up with family or set up petitions to bring back extinct chocolate bars. For others, namely employers, social networking sites are the bane of their lives as their employees appear more committed to checking their Facebook status then doing their paid work, which has lead to many companies blocking these networking sites. On the other hand, Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz have made a small fortune (Zuckerberg has been valued as having a net worth of $1.5 billion) with investors running from Asian billionaires to Microsoft.

One of the first major social networking sites that made it big was Myspace which is still the worlds largest site of its kind with over 250 million accounts in existence. At the peak of its popularity Myspace was attracting 230,000 new users a day and has been credited with helping many music bands get record deals through free advertising on its site. At present, MySpace’s' growth is in decline where as Facebooks continues to grow. In the past year, Alexa have compared the two, with Facebook's reach rising 12% while Myspace has dropped by 2% although both are still rising in overall popularity.

The amount of personal information held by all of the social networking sites poses significant security risks especially identity theft. In the UK alone, people have been expelled from Colleges and Universities and fired from their jobs because of evidence acquired on Facebook and Myspace about their poor conduct. The younger generations do not fully understand the implications of allowing so many people to view their personal data; date of births, place of
residence etc... which can make identity theft significantly easier for criminals. This coupled with the increase of teenager hackers who are frequenting online fraud forums where they can easily swap stolen credit card details and find 'cracks' in public programs, means that the social networking sites have a huge responsibility to maintain vast firewalls and servers in highly secure data centres to protect their users.

One of the questions that should be asked every time you enter personal details online is "Where is my data being held?". In the UK we have very good data protection laws that aim to keep all information about us safe, but in America there is different legislation in place for each aspect of information held. There are many worries from the European Union about the adequacy of self-regulation that many private sector companies use in the US. There are many small laws that are in use, but there appears to be no plans for an all encompassing law to protect data as a whole. This means that while you think your information is being protected by European law, it may be being accessed totally legally in another country. The simple answer is never fill in your information details if you don't have to. The one thing that you truly own is your personal data, protect it and make sure you know who has access to it.

Migration Solutions are experienced data centre designers, builders and operators who are proud to be impartial and vendor neutral. To find out more about the services we offer visit

Friday, 6 February 2009

We won!

Yesterday, Information Age, the magazine that has been the backbone of the IT industry for many, many years, announced the winners of the Information Age Awards. The awards were made for innovation in a number of categories; Data Centre, Security, Information Management, Eco-Responsibility and Business Applications. Over 500 voters, readers of the magazine and web site, voted for the finalists. Migration Solutions submitted an entry for its ERA product. It is a great honour to win the award, against stiff competition from Telecity Group for their new data centre design. You can see our entry here.

ERA (Environmental Report & Audit) is a product that Migration Solutions offers to customers to help them reduce the environmental impact of their data centre or computer room, whilst also reducing the power costs. The audit, or assessment, takes just a couple of hours on site and assesses over 150 different data points. The subsequent report provides informative advice on how the environmental impact can be reduced and operating costs can be cut. The conclusion of the report includes a series of recommendations, some of which will cost nothing to implement, some that may take some time or a small amount of investment and some that need planning and investment to achieve.

Since launching ERA take-up has been strong with many companies looking to reduce their environmental impact and also take advantage of the massive cost savings that can come with it. It is an indication of the success of ERA that every data centre or computer room that has engaged Migration Solutions to carry out the assessment has saved the cost of the service ... many within weeks!

So, forgive our pride, but it is great to be recognised by our peers and to win such a prestigious award!

Migration Solutions is a vendor indepedent consultancy, specialising in the design, migration and operation of data centres and computer rooms. To find out more, please visit:

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Snowed In

The conditions of the last two days have played havoc with the country's infrastructure with people stranded at home, on the road and at work. For many it was a welcome day off, but for those that have needed to travel it was a nightmare. Nearly all the public transport links in the South East were shut down and the roads were plagued by accidents and road closures which resulted in 20 minute journeys taking 4 hours. An estimated £1.2 billion was lost to the country's economy as at least 6.4 million workers stayed at home unable, or unwilling to brave the treacherous weather. For those who tried to get to work, checking the weather, traffic conditions and public transport networks was vitally important, but with much of the country having similar ideas, popular websites could not cope with the increased traffic levels. The Transport For London (TFL) website was down for a prolonged period as hundreds of thousands of people check to see if they could get to work and National Rail Enquiries recorded 800% more website hits than usual for a Monday morning.

Many people also experienced problems making phone calls, as the major phone companies buckled under the shear volume of calls. Many people were receiving engaged tones or network busy messages as people called friends and relatives and sent picture messages of the snow across the country. The BBC reported numbers upwards of 36,000 pictures and videos being sent in of local weather conditions and humorous activities in the snow.

The net result of this increased traffic will certainly mean upgrades to the infrastructure of all those affected by the technology 'black-outs'. Consumers reliance on up to date information, and annoyance when this cannot be obtained, will lead to an increase in the amount of power dedicated to the websites and phone lines of the major companies that have been affected by the adverse weather conditions. Much of this power will come as emergency servers are switched on to cope with the increased demand. With the UK already suffering from a severe power shortage, the knock-on effect will be more brown-outs, full blown power cuts and spikes to be coped with in our ever important data centres. Data Centre Managers, be warned, knowing whether your backup power supplies work now would be a very good thing. Many data centres have backup power supplies, but they are never tested or only partially tested. It is at times like these that some Data Centre Managers will wish they had done a full integrated system test earlier and under more controlled conditions.

Migration Solutions are data centre specialists, providing truly independent and impartial advice to customers from all sectors of industry. Visit for more about the company and services that we offer.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Disaster? What disaster?

There is much debate and some considerable hype regarding Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Planning. A disaster that requires one to invoke a Disaster Recovery plan (DR) is all too often thought of as that 'smokin' hole in the ground'. Business Continuity Planning (BCP) is equally considered as that plan that we will implement following our disaster. Whilst it is true that a 'smokin' hole in the ground' would certainly constitute a disaster, it is not this that would normally cause the invocation.

Take today, for example. Much of Southern England has been crippled by snow that has been swept in from Siberia. Virtually all train services have been affected - many have been stopped altogether. Bus services in London have been withdrawn on safety grounds. Many, many roads are impassable, with cars and lorries abandoned all over the place. (True, we're not very good at dealing with a bit of snow, but that's another matter!)

It is the snow that will cause some companies (those with a reliable plan in place) to invoke DR. Many staff have been unable to reach their offices and this could have disastrous impacts for some organisations. Imagine, if you will, this scenario. Company 'X' take backups of their systems every night. They are required to keep these backups for regulatory reasons (maybe they are regulated by the FSA, or are required to keep them for health and safety reasons). Today, however, the staff are unable to get to the office in order to change those backup tapes. That means that tonight the current backups will get overwritten, or if its a system that knows it is last night's backup, it may fail because there are no new tapes. This could easily be a disaster.

More often than not, the reason for invoking DR is not a physical disaster, but is a more subtle problem that means the business cannot run as usual. The inability of staff to access the office is a good example of how DR may become necessary - even though nothing physical has happened directly. Having a good DR Plan in place is essential in today's world and it is only the fool hardy that don't have one.

So, what about BCP? How does that come into play? Contrary to the belief of many, it is not necessarily the plan that is only implemented after a disaster. It may be that in a situation like today, where weather has impacted the ability of the business to trade as usual, BCP comes into the fore. It may not be necessary to invoke full DR, but BCP may provide the solution. BCP is, as is suggested by the name, all about continuity. If the staff can't access the office, what plans are in place? Can they work from home? Will they have access to email, the company intranet or those essential files that are stored on the network drive? Who will co-ordinate the staff? Who will call them and tell them what they need to do? If there are only limited resources available, who are the most important people to have access, and who can the business do without for a limited time? A good BCP plan will have all the answers ... and a really good BCP plan will be up-to-date!

DR and BCP are no longer options for a business, they are essential. So many companies suffer unnecessary problems, many financial, simply because they hadn't planned for events that, whilst weren't directly attributable to the business, impacted it's ability to trade as normal. Having a reliable DR Plan in place, ensuring that it is regularly tested and that the business can get back from a DR position is essential. The DR Plan, however, should never be thought of alone - it is imperative that it is accompanied by a robust, up-to-date, BCP. With both in place, the chances of an external event impacting the business are significantly reduced and, even if they do, the business will be ready to deal with the situation.

Migration Solutions is the only truly independent consultancy specialising in the data centre industry that can offer informed, unbiased, advice on matters data centre or computer room related. If you would like to know more about the services offered by Migration Solutions, including the development of robust DR and BCP planning, visit