Standardization Begets Better Utilization

By Ericka Chickowski  |  Posted 2008-10-20 Print this article Print

With hundreds of data centers spread around the globe, Intel struggles to keep costs under control. Several years ago, Intel’s IT operations staff decided to face these issues and meet them head-on with an efficiency initiative that will help save money.

Standardization Begets Better Utilization

With the business case laid out and the “but why-ers” on board, Intel is now putting all the logistical puzzles into place. The first step has been to work on standardizing the environments and practices to reduce redundancies and improve the way all the data centers work together. Because, as Davis says, when Intel surveyed the data center landscape in 2006, it had 150 centers and “there was no synergy to anything; we were all over the place.”

Standardization begets improved utilization rates, he notes, adding that it was Intel’s goal to eschew the “normal” data center utilization rates and shoot for the moon with unheard of rates of more than 80 percent to 90 percent usage.

“Everybody tells you the same story—it’s always 10 or 15 percent utilization on a box; it’s never 80 to 90 percent,” he says. “We wanted to increase that. If we could do that, we could begin to consolidate. After we standardized, we had processes in place, and we began to increase utilization.”

This was enabled through a number of strategies, including virtualization, grid computing and cloud computing. And it was coupled with efforts to do a better job refreshing servers—replacing them with fewer servers along the way.

Before the program started, Davis reported that by 2014, Intel was on track to move up from 90,000 servers to 225,000 servers. The goal, he says, is to keep that number at 100,000 in six years’ time and reduce the cost and power draw of each of these servers significantly.

“The only way we could do that was by getting off the old hardware,” he recalls. “We were just as guilty as everyone else. We were sitting on servers that were possibly seven or eight years old. We needed to start refreshing those servers to reduce the power consumption in the data center.”

Davis’ team set a retirement date of four years for servers, which they identified as the point at which Intel saw diminishing margins or returns when it came to maintenance contracts and the like. As they refresh, they take advantage of the higher utilization rate and the dual-core and quad-core technology that their own colleagues innovated in order to put fewer servers in the environment.

“We don’t have to take out one server and bring back another one,” he says. “We’re taking out four servers right now and bringing back one.”

During 2008, Intel will refresh 20,000 servers, with similar projections for the next couple of years.

“Of the 85,000 servers we’re sitting on today, we’re going to refresh [about] 60.000,” Davis says.


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