That about 7,500 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions are saved annually by the new HP datacentre in Bangalore is only the headline news.
Behind it is a serious, three-pronged initiative aimed at producing practical measures that could be used to ‘green’ existing datacentres. It would be impractical and massively expensive to apply a rip-and-rebuild approach to this problem.
Chandrakant Patel is a fellow in HP's Enterprise Systems and Software Laboratory, a worldwide HP organisation. He spoke at length about the new HP Labs datacentre in Bangalore - also known as India's garden city - which consolidates the activities of several existing datacentres there. Here are some excerpts from our conversation:
Could you provide some background information about the new datacentre?
CP: The Bangalore laboratory datacentre is a full scale, research testbed that has reduced greenhouse gas emissions from consolidation of 14 labs down to one. Its intent is to develop a control system that provisions power, compute and cooling precisely based on the need - not just cooling.
Dynamic Smart Cooling (DSC) is a small element of the full scale research. Once all three pillars - compute, power and cooling - are addressed, and workloads are scaled based on the available energy, we intend to cut off supply of diesel to the datacentre. This is indeed the focus on our research that addresses the "supply" side management and "demand" side management.
What is the near-term, demand-side challenge in global datacentres?
CP: The installed base of datacentres globally, which number thousands, lead to multiple gigawatts of power dissipation, emission of millions of metric tons of CO2 and must be addressed. These datacentres lack a control system! One's home is more sophisticated (in this regard) than a datacentre.
That said, it is hard to devise a control system for a datacentre given the size and the complexity in developing a control algorithm. This is further compounded by heterogenity of racks and hardware. As we cannot just shutdown the installed base of datacentres, we have addressed the existing problem.
The Bangalore laboratory datacentre does just that.
Does HP use a hot aisle:cold aisle design in its new Bangalore datacentre?
CP: We do follow "hot-aisle, cold aisle" approach in a very heterogeneous mix of hardware.
We have to take the worst case scenario to address the fundamental problems in the datacentre and have taken the risk of doing so. We are intent on addressing real life customer environments and our Bangalore datacentre is designed to just do that - we want to take on all the existing datacentres in the world and get a control system in place so we stop wasting energy. This will make a significant dent in CO2 production. Creating the ideal testbed would not have solved this problem.
This is key if we are to solve the energy issue around all of the datacentres in the world which, in their totality, consume approximately 20GW (gigawatts) of power in our estimate (5000 datacentres world-wide requiring 2MW for powering the hardware and 2MW for cooling). This is 175 million metric tons of CO2 emission per annum. We are intent on cutting this in half. To do so, we cannot take a nice layout of homogenous machines and racks like HPL datacentre and expect to make our solution work for all our customers.
Why is the site in Bangalore and what are we doing about diesel?
CP: Our software operation is in India, and thousands of personnel work on development that requires physical access to hardware. By consolidating the datacentres (14 to 1) we have reduced the energy consumption.
Our research road map is built on the Second Law of Thermodynamics - that of supply side management and we are focused on reducing the destruction of available energy. To that end, we are trying to become completely un-reliant on diesel by reducing the use of diesel on site by balancing workloads.
Power is scarce in India, and most datacentres in India (financial, manufacturing, Internet sector) draw part or all the power from diesel generators. So do hotels, hospitals, homes and even events such as weddings. The vagaries and lack of power is the issue. Not having a "demand-based apportioning system" is a colossal case of over-provisioning. DSC is aimed at all those datacentres that are not going away.
So, we are challenging ourselves to minimise the number of times the trucks enter the facility by managing our compute workload, advanced analytics to run systems at the highest temperatures in conjunction with dynamic smart cooling. So, from a testbed point of view, I would argue that we are trying to attack the sustainability issue head on.
Patel's aim, and HP’s, is to address environmental challenges in datacentres all around the globe. The idea is to adapt them; financially much more affordable than replacing them with brand spanking new buildings based on the newest green datacentre design technologies.
HP’s DSC is going to be just one part of what seems to be a comprehensive set of measures to deal with the CO2-emitting datacentre in this practical way.