Jan9th2008

China an inefficient truth

I read this entry over on David Wolf’s blog before my recent trip back down under about power usage and IT infrastructure.

Silicon Hutong

And the topic did strike a “Hey this is real man!!!” kind of chord with me. A cathartic resonance that shall never come from me with respect to the greater greenhouse effect crap while the infallible science is still not in. Nor came to me for any other “agenda” or “crusade of the world” that seemed to so very trouble all those students over in the Arts and Law faculties. That seemed to have so much time on their hands, relative to us poor saps in Engineering and Business school.

Politics aside, wastage for the sake of wastage though is not very good. And I have a rather poignant insider’s look at this issue that also manages (in my mind at least) to cross paths with this issue about China’s talent gap, or indeed this also about the talent gap.

What does resource wastage and power requirements have to do with a talent gap, or as they lament now in overly taxed and anti-entrepreneurial Australia – the “Brain Drain”?

Allow me to explain.

Servers cost a lot of money! Not only do you spend the 5-10K USD for the server and warranty, you then have colocation fees, cooling costs and power costs – this all adds up. And if you skimp on something like cooling, your equipment can age prematurely – especially bad in China given the tax depts allowed deprecation rates!

A good contact of mine who runs an IDC in New York city, mentioned how it is all about the power. Real estate? No worries, how much power will we need. So it seems pretty clear where things are going. Moore’s law, computing density increasing and an ever growing appetite for all things information.

With respect to the issues that David Wolf brought up, a major new trend that has been underway for the past 6 years or so and is trying to put a clamp on rising costs of infrastructure is Virtualisation. This technology allows for less resource wastage and consumables wastage by consolidating many lower end servers into fewer bigger more reliable and cost effective servers. Picking the low hanging fruit so to speak.

A further evolution of this that I mentioned about here is where the actual servers in a farm can be powered down too when not needed.

Now when it comes to electricity there are always two rates, the so called “Consumer Rate” and the “Industrial Rate”. And yes, data centre’s use the industrial rates, which while are relatively cheaper than consumer rates – are still not cheap in absolute terms. And if you go and use a nifty tool like this Dell capacity planner and then do some arithmatic, you can see what your costs will be. It is through this tool, that CANDIS deduced that paying the premium for higher efficiency power supplies and low voltage processors, actually did pay for themselves in outright power savings over a 2 year period. Even more if you factor in that less heat is better for stability and system longevity.

So where does the talent gap come into play? Well, in how many servers you need to do a job and knowing about virtualisation.

We had a client that was struggling to keep up and online with their 8 server cluster. They kept just purchasing new servers when things went bad and slowed down. Which seemed to happen all the time. Now I know this and they didn’t, is that an out of the box Linux system is not too tuned and the concurrent IP connection tracking vlaue in the kernel is a little conservative. So instead of them having 8 servers running at 20% capacity and still not managing the load on them as a cluster. Yours truly made a few changes and now 3 servers are doing the job, with better outward performance to the clusters users.

What made this situation all the more funny, is that in China, capital asset valuations are fair game for being compared to the salary of a team of workers to perform the same job (quality and reaction times not withstanding).

So, in summary, I will go out on a limb here and make a bold assertion.

“There are probably more servers than needed running in IDC’s across China, due to engineers not knowing how to admin them properly, not know how to architect systems properly and not knowing how to leverage new technology better.”

Anyway, I could go on. I just wanted to illustrate the nexus of those points and how they relate and intersect. Poorly deployed tech, poorly planned and architected tech and balooning operational costs and resource demands.

Seems that in the past you could be a lazy programmer and no one would notice due to the liberation of faster processors and free cycles. Or in China, buy a server is better than paying the for the expensive vendor support and optimisation.

However as one famous economist once mused…. “there is no such thing as a free lunch”

1 Response to “China an inefficient truth”


  1. 1 Software as a Service, ASPing, ESPing, ISPing and many more "SP's" | Utility Computing dot China Pingback on Jan 18th, 2008 at 6:21 PM
Comments are currently closed.