IO’s Patrick Flynn in DatacenterDynamics FOCUS Magazine: Use IT to Transform IT

Last week I wrote about the data center efficiency assessment report that had just been released by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). IO.Applied Intelligence group leader Patrick Flynn was quoted in a National Geographic article on the report, highlighting the fact that “the data center sector has been ‘left behind’ on efficiency even as it has helped streamline other industries.” The article went on to say that Pierre Delforge, who co-authored the NRDC report, “echoed the idea that data centers have lagged in the productivity and efficiency that they have enabled in other sectors.”

Applied Intelligence - Interactions

The concept that IT has 1) enabled tremendous efficiency gains in our economy; and 2) not applied the same principles to realize efficiency gains in the data center is one that Flynn has elaborated on with Stanford University research fellow Jonathan Koomey in an article just released by DatacenterDynamics FOCUS Magazine.

IT has been the catalyst for revolutionary change for autos and virtually all of modern industry, reducing costs, changing businesses, and creating new products and services. Medicine, transportation, communication and industrial processes have all been streamlined by IT to create more value…The great irony is that this catalytic industry has only modestly been affected by the innovations it enables. Businesses still produce information services in data centers that embody decades-old design, archaic billing arrangements, flawed inventory tracking, and inadequate measurements, resulting in woefully poor performance.

The data, Flynn and Koomey say, tell the story:

  • Computer servers in data centers are typically used at 5-15% of their capacity
  • 10-30% of servers in data centers are idle, though they still consume energy
  • Each data center is unique, so the benefits of mass production are largely missed

But those are symptoms of what’s really at issue:

  • In most companies there is no lean value-supply chain for enterprise IT – and that is not primarily a technical problem “but one of people, organizations, incentives and information flows”
  • Incentives typically are misaligned between the facilities manager and the IT department manager
  • “No one tracks total costs or profits associated with IT, which inhibits optimization of the system as a whole”

To solve those issues – to “use IT to transform IT” – Flynn and Koomey recommend four steps:

1. “Realize that IT is not a cost center, but the engine for cost reduction and competitiveness in your business”

2. “Organize data center operations (software and hardware) under one senior manager with one budget for all of IT operations”

3. “Agree on relevant metrics throughout the organization”

4. “Standardize IT deployments, reducing needless and unproductive variability in your IT infrastructure and focusing on economies of scale and mass production”

The IT transformation that Flynn and Koomey pave a path to is about energy efficiency, and far beyond that too. It’s about taking a whole-system view of enterprise IT, leveraging IT itself (including data center infrastructure, hardware, and software) to introduce efficiencies and enhance productivity across the enterprise.

Learn MoreHow to Run Data Center Operations Like a Well Oiled Machine by Patrick Flynn and Jonathan Koomey in DCD FOCUS

Applied Intelligence overview page

10 Key Data Center Assessment Metrics – What’s Your Score? blog post