Energy Management/Energy Efficiency

Following the moon

My first encounter with globalization included call centers. This was the late 1990s and suddenly it made sense for a lot of companies to have three or four call centers across the globe instead of one call center open 24/7. The benefit of this was that the staff in the centers only needed to work normal hours, thus reducing the need for extra pay and the disadvantages of night time work. This strategy was named “Follow the sun” as you would switch through call centers as the sun advances over the globe.

Today, I work with making data centers more efficient, and I wonder if there’s anything the data center business can learn from the Follow the sun strategy.

 

Low costs at night time

The call centers moved around the globe for saving on their highest cost; the wages. In data centers most of the money is spent on power and cooling. And just like the hourly rate of a call center worker changes during the day, so does the cost of power and the availability of cold air for free cooling. Contrary to the call centers, however, data center costs are lowest when it’s nighttime. This could indicate that data centers should apply a “Follow the moon” strategy for energy management, always running at a location where it’s night. Major corporations and co-locators already have data centers around the world, so we’re only talking about changing the way these data centers are used.

Just as infrastructure made it possible to apply the Follow the sun strategy, infrastructure is also a key enabler for Follow the moon. Moving vast amounts of data between continents is no longer a big issue, and modern data center software promises moving applications seamlessly between virtualization hosts.

 

Maturity

So why isn’t this applied generally already? One reason is that it is not the right solution for every data center. If most of the data center traffic comes from user interaction – and bearing in mind that users are mainly awake during daytime – moving the applications to a distant data center comes with a performance penalty.

Worries about the maturity of virtualization at this scale and the complexity of the setup required are also key factors opting against Follow the moon. A few successful implementations are needed before this really kicks off, so though you may not need to plan for it yet, it’s definitely a trend worth watching.

While you’re waiting for globalized virtualization, you may have a look at my colleague Torben Nielsen’s blog post on what virtualization can do for you on a shorter term.


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