Lawyer Bait

The views expressed herein solely represent the author’s personal views and opinions and not of anyone else - person or organization.

Monday, June 28, 2010

My Cloud Math - Flawed or Flawless?

Dell PowerEdge R900 - $7500
Red Hat Enterprise Linux Support - $1200/year
Draw @ capacity – 1.5 KW per unit
4U = 9 plus a switch 1 Kw
Draw = 14.5 Kw per cabinet at load *.8 = 11.6Kw
$4500 for VM ware per cabinet

2,175/mo rent per cabinet, 78,300 for 3 year term
67,500 hardware amortized over 3 years
10,800 for SW = 32,400 for 3 years:
3 year total – 177,900
Per mo: ~$5,000 per cabinet for a 3 year term

So on a per cabinet basis, you need to do ~$6,00 month in revenue to make it work at low margins.

Using Amazon EC2, @ $1.20 per hour you can bill $28.80 per day per instance. At 16 VM per core and a six core box is used, $2,764.80 per box per day at max utilization (16*6*28.8). At 9 per rack, that's $24,883 per day if the rack is 100% utilized. If the rack is utilized 8% then $24,883*.08= $1990.66 per day.

That's $730,000 per year per rack if you hit 8% utilization.

How does this check out with what you're seeing?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fuel Cells and Green Tech in the Data Center

An industry peer, Ken Jamaca from Silverback tech gave me a heads up on an article whose subject is one of great interest to me - Fuel Cells in the data center.

One reason it is of great interest is that the current electricity grid in the US is resilient, barely, and has been for some time. Adding load to it does not help the problem, and given the lack of a US Energy policy generation is hard to come by and getting new power plants approved are even more difficult. Not great news to folks looking to construct new data centers as data centers are about access to power. Period. The other reason is that I am embarking on a new data center venture that will bring a new data center platform to the market.

Wind has generated the most buzz and been deployed the most in the US as a solution to increasing generation capacity and giving us more electrons to consume in a 'green' way. Wind is great - so long as the wind is blowing and since it is inconsistent (unreliable) as a power source, and it's expensive to store the electricity, it is used as a mix of total power available to customers. Solar is also a solution that has generated a lot of buzz however the land area required to put PV panels up is so large to be meaningful to a data center that many solar installations on roofs of large data centers and commercial buildings only provide enough electricity for parking lot lights and ambient lighting in hallways and common areas.

Fuel cells are getting more attention and the technology seems to be advancing as fast as it ever has. Bloom Energy has garnered the majority of the buzz in the market, and UTC (United Technologies) to a lesser extent, and there are some new entrants that have reached out to me to discuss their approaches and solutions.

As I have gotten into the nitty gritty of designing a system that is reliable, off grid, and can support a multi megawatt installation, some interesting things have popped up that have nothing to do with the technology, but have to do with a 100 year old set of policies, tarriffs, and agreements that make it difficult for a company to adopt the technology, especially a data center that wants 5 nines. Let me explain a little...

One major factor is utility costs per kWh and kW. Many utilities have 'demand charges' and 'stand by' charges that will impact the economics of the approach and drive design of a fuel cell system. Some also use what is called a ratcheted rates or tariffs. Should the data center need to transfer from fuel cell to the power grid/utility for backup, the demand charge is the charge per month for the next 12 months.

So say you’re paying $5,000/mo demand charge every month for 500 kW for a computer room. Then the fuel cell system trips off for even a few seconds, the full kW demand of the facility is now the current demand for the next 12 months. So say that 500 kW goes to 2,500 kW at $10.00/kW the new monthly charge is now $25,000 for the next 12 months. Ouch.

Developers need to play close attention to the tariffs and the structure of where they build these systems. The utilities clearly do not want onsite power in many cases and write the tariffs deliberately to keep out self generation. In some smaller municipal utilities they may welcome exporting excess power to the grid as a peaker during the summer months to help carry load on the grid for when every home turns on air conditioning during a heat wave. In other cases they may not want these solutions in their service area due to the adverse impact on transmission capacity on the local circuits and upgrade costs to meet the need should the facility go down.

So a word to the States, counties, towns, and municipalities looking to attract data centers, jobs, and tax revenues: Electricity matters more than anything.

The ability for a facility to generate power for themselves, especially low to zero carbon footprint power, and still be served by a utility as back up vs. primary power flips the 100 year old electricity business model on it head. This creates a threat for the utilities, because there are now competitive technologies made by companies that aren't restricted by a 100 year old business model, and will serve customers faster.

While the cost is still high for these newer 'greener' systems, the price comes down as adoption prolifererates. The confluence of technology, its incresing reliability, and the ultimate development of an alternative electricity ecosystem will seismically shift the models and markets.

I don't know about you, but after 100 years, I am ready to try something new.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The jury is still out....

I was catching up on some Monday morning reading and saw some covereage for a new low power server from SeaMicro and was left scratching my head.

I am not a server guy. I am a data center guy and I try to pay attention to systems and how they are designed and work together. I always find myself asking 'so what?' when I see a new product or service because at the end of the day I really don't give a sh*t how cool/new/groundbreaking something is, I want to to know why it's better than what I have, so I always ask - so what?

From a single tenant data center operator I can see that this is interesting. Lower cost to do more computing = good. For the multi tenant data center I don't see the good. Here's why:

Equinix sells a lot of cabinets. 4.8 Kw cabinets. So if you buy these SeaMicro servers that pack a full cabinet worth of compute into a 1/2 cabinet, you just made me double the density for 1/2 the space. Not Good. Why?

Because a data center operator needs to get power provisioned from a power company. To do this load letters are filed which is a formal request for more power to a site. Let's say that the load letter is for 13 megawatts in a 100,000 square foot building. The building consists of 10 computer rooms each with 1.2 megawatts. That 1.2 megawatts is designed for 4.8 Kw/rack, not 8Kw as the SeaMicro SM10000 are.

So now my electrical load can only support 5,000 feet of computer room space fully loaded leaving me (or the customer) paying for the other 5000 feet or stranding it, or waiting for more power assuming its available. It breaks the model and isn't as attractive as something that fits in my business model like a 4.8 Kw rack.

These are like containers. Containers break the model of a traditional data center in that for a ~600 sq. ft. footprint, they can consume 500Kw/half a megawatt. So instead of a 5,000 ft room, you have a very dense 600 sq ft box and a lot of extra space. That is good if you like paintball and want to set up a paintball field inside for when you are provisioning servers, but for a business, it's a tough sell.

And as a result,Seamicro may never get to the part of the pitch about lower operational costs.