Most data centers are too inefficient, says Supermicro

Only 28% of Supermicro's survey respondents consider environmental factors when shopping for hardware, which is bad for your budget and for the planet, the company noted.

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Big businesses aren't doing well at managing the energy needs of their computer hardware, which leads to wasting money and poor technical performance, according to officials at San Jose, CA-based Supermicro. The company has been trying to differentiate itself by promoting disaggregated systems so customers can more easily update memory, network interfaces, processors, and storage, without replacing entire cabinets or the supporting components such as fans and power supplies.

Like its competitors, Supermicro has its bases covered to sell a hyperconverged system if you prefer, but the company started selling blade servers in disaggregated configurations earlier this year and will add traditional servers with such options in 2019, according to Vik Malyala, senior vice-president of field application engineering.

Hyperscale customers are already paying plenty of attention to energy use in servers, storage, and network hardware by following an industry measure called power usage effectiveness (PUE), and now that trend must come downstream, Malyala implored. At too many medium and large-scale enterprises, "They are not utilizing the data center in terms of the density that it can provide," he explained. "The data centers are operating very inefficiently. I was shocked to see the PUE... the spread is quite wide, and it's not coming down as quick as we'd hoped."

Two examples of when non-hyperscale companies should think about power use are when limited power is available in a building and when monthly power bills exceed hundreds of megawatts, Malyala said. In terms of reducing costs, "I would say data centers with a thousand or more systems sitting in them, they would see a material difference," he added. (Author's note: It is unclear what happens to the space-time continuum when a data center exceeds 1.21 gigawatts.)

SEE: Data center automation research report 2018: Despite growth in data, automation adoption remains slow (Tech Pro Research)

Supermicro commissioned a survey (PDF) of 361 people who purchase and administer data center hardware. The final report states that data centers use 3% of the worldwide electrical supply, and that 59% of respondents consider energy efficiency important when building or leasing a new data center, although it's only only fourth on the priorities list behind security, performance, and connectivity when managing existing data centers. That's where the money is lost, Malyala emphasized.

Other interesting results: 58% of respondents did not know their data center PUE, only 6% of those who did know it have a PUE in the best levels, and you don't want to know how many data centers are kept at needlessly cold temperatures.

SEE: A guide to data center automation (ZDNet special report) | Download the PDF version (TechRepublic)

Overall, "Only 28% of respondents consider environmental issues in the selection of data center technology. Supermicro challenges them to look more broadly at their strategy and start measuring their data center efficiency with a new metric--the Total Cost to the Environment," the report states.

"There are two ways to measure and improve TCE: improved data center power efficiency and a drive towards elimination of e-waste," it continues. "Supermicro urges industry leaders to incorporate disaggregated resource-saving solutions into their data center plans, with a goal to lower the average data center PUE to 1.30 and reduce their e-waste by 2025. The health of our environment, our planet, and our citizens may depend on it."

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By Evan Koblentz

Evan became a technology reporter during the dot-com boom of the late 1990s. He published a book, "Abacus to smartphone: The evolution of mobile and portable computers" in 2015 and is executive director of Vintage Computer Federation, a 501(c)3 non-p...