DCIM and Energy Management

By Tony Lock

Over several decades IT management has focussed almost exclusively on keeping servers running. It is only in the last few years that much attention has been paid even to critical areas such as storage and network management except when new systems are installed, or when things go wrong. Now though things are changing and the emphasis is slowly being shifted to the dynamic management of systems to optimise resource utilisation, improve service quality and keep a better handle on costs. In some organisations this is bringing the management of energy into sharper focus, a trend that is likely to spread across many more businesses in years to come. Freeform Dynamics has a paper looking at IT energy management and how identified 5 imperatives to make things better.

Some of the other factors exerting pressure on organisations to pay more attention to energy consumption are illustrated in the figure below.

Several of the issues highlighted can have a clear and immediate impact on how much effort organisations put into energy management. In particular the rising cost of energy, and its visibility in terms of IT consumption of electricity, is now influencing an increasing number of operational decisions. Meanwhile, concerns over energy availability and potential legislation are also likely to be matters to be addressed in the very near future. Unlike several of the other factors mentioned, enabling a better green posture via effective energy management is still regarded as a collateral benefit rather than an initiator of change in and of itself.

Given the drivers now influencing energy management, why has the area been overlooked in the past by IT? The table below summarises the factors our research has highlighted over the course of many studies combined with our own first hand experiences of working in IT.

Common causes of poor (or non-existent) IT-related energy management
Of the areas discussed in the table, the lack of monitoring tools providing information on electricity consumption is a major inhibitor holding back better energy management. The saying: “if you don’t know what’s going on how you expect to change things for the better” applies equally well to energy management as it does to every other aspect of IT.

But better energy monitoring capabilities alone are unlikely to change things positively unless the second point in the table is also addressed. Until someone in the enterprise is charged with tackling energy management, there is little prospect that things will change. And the person handed the mandate of energy management also requires the backing of business managers and IT to change things, together with the budget and ‘incentives’ to make things happen.

In order to address energy management properly, there are five key steps that can be taken, each of which delivers benefits in and of itself, but when combined together improvements can be dramatic.

Five imperatives for effective energy management in relation to IT
Nearly all of the factors listed in the chart above, and the table that preceded it, underpin inefficiency and ineffectiveness within IT in general. In fact, any effort to improve energy management in IT is almost certain to positively impact mainstream initiatives to enhance IT service delivery. Indeed, adding energy management considerations into solutions and approaches being discussed holds the potential to enhance business cases as they are being constructed. Are you ready to make a change for the better?


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Tony is an IT operations guru. As an ex-IT manager with an insatiable thirst for knowledge, his extensive vendor briefing agenda makes him one of the most well informed analysts in the industry, particularly on the diversity of solutions and approaches available to tackle key operational requirements. If you are a vendor talking about a new offering, be very careful about describing it to Tony as ‘unique’, because if it isn’t, he’ll probably know.