We caught up with Sun Microsystems (SUNW) CIO Bob Worrall yesterday at the company’s “Eco Innovation” event to chat about Sun’s latest power-saving initiatives. As we reported yesterday, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company has unveiled three new data centers designed to save electricity. In fiscal 2008, it plans to reduce its corporate data center energy usage by 20 percent.
Q: While the latest innovations in technology that help make data centers more efficient are impressive in the sheer amount of power usage they can cut, it makes me wonder how anyone could have designed such an inefficient data center to begin with. Who is at fault for our history of inefficient servers?
A: I don’t like to point fingers. I think the tipping point came as CIOs and CFOs began to realize that the cost of power in the data center is surpassing the amount of the equipment. It didn’t used to be that way.
Q: How much of a role will virtualization play in making data centers more efficient? Are today’s virtualization technologies as advanced as they’ll get, or is there still room for improvement?
A: Virtualization right now is at the tip of the iceberg. It is going to be complementary to solving the whole power problem. It’s a dirty secret in the industry that most data centers today run inefficiently. Virtualization makes it easier for CIOs who want to run servers at 80 or 85 percent. It’s the only way to get there.
Q: Now that the “dirty secret” is out of the bag, why is it taking so long for every CIO to move to these more efficient models for data centers?
A: The technology is the easy part. The hardest part is getting businesses aligned with the need to transform the data center. The finance and sales community needs applications to be up 24 hours a day. It’s incumbent on CIOs who have budget challenges to paint a picture for the business that we need to go through this transformation, that in the worst case there will be some interruptions in services, but the end result is so powerful and compelling.
Q: You talk a lot about budget challenges and cost savings. How much can people save by transferring to an efficient data center?
A: It ranges from 60 to 80 percent utility savings. The notion of an entire brick-and-motor building closing is pretty compelling for CFOs.
Q: What does the data center of 2015 look like?
A: In 2015, the question isn’t what a corporate data center looks like, it’s, “Why do you need a data center?’” The data center of the future is nothing but a big black box of service providers. Even corporate enterprises like Sun, who have a traditional IT environment, won’t need that in 2015. As applications become more service-based, the need for our corporate data centers begins to diminish. The notion that every company has to have their own data center — that’s my father’s legacy. That’s not for 2015.