Posted by: Greg Ness | June 27, 2012

Private Clouds and the 500kW Threshold

I’ve been intrigued by two recent and fairly consistent comments made by cloud thought leaders about the power and significance of the under-hyped private cloud.  Zynga CTO Debra Chrapaty recently commented about the Zynga migration from public to private cloud centricity.  Zynga owns the base and rents the spike; see The Power of the Private Cloud for a link to the GigaOm Research interview.

At a recent cloud panel at  Future in Review 2012, Morphlabs CEO Winston Damarillo said that the private cloud is cheaper than the public cloud for predictable workloads. See about 6:57 into this panel on what CIOs should know about cloud.

Winston and Debra were obviously referring to enterprise deployments, where optimization (from understanding workflows and volumes) gives a significant payoff.  In the case of Zynga it was about a 3X payoff for customization beyond what was possible from IaaS.

I think both comments beg the question of what are the levels of IT infrastructure where the private cloud payoff gets materially significant, at least significant enough to incentivize a migration, however challenging that may be.  On the same CIO panel (at about 9:19) I suggest that the threshold may be at about 500kWs in power consumption, based on interviews with some Vantage customers.

This 500kW threshold has been brought up by two of our customers as the point where they could get significant returns by taking greater control of not just IT customization and optimization but also greater customization of the electrical and mechanical infrastructure of their data center facility.  A more energy efficient data center can translate into millions of dollars in electricity cost savings per year, not to mention a reduced carbon footprint.

In addition, wholesale data center developers are moving to increased levels of customization, allowing enterprises to get the control they want, yet with lower risk, lower energy costs and more predictable cost models.

BYOR – for bring your own rack– can allow enterprises to compete and win up against standard one design fits all infrastructure and data center facilities.  They fully exploit Moore’s Law within the playing field of an advanced data center optimized for their workflows and volumes.


The (above) chart from the 2007 EPA Datacenter Report to Congress shows server hardware costs level as infrastructure and energy costs climb.  This suggests that the efficiency of the data center can be even more significant to the TCO of IT infrastructure than the actual server, network, etc. hardware purchased and managed inside the data modules.

In fairness to the IaaS players, for many smaller environments their advanced data centers probably do reduce power consumption over the existing native environments they would replace.  They’ve likely developed low cost, standard architectures which are probably easier to manage and maintain, like a fleet of taxis.

However, as more servers are added and the likelihood of a dedicated (and more energy efficient) data center is increased, as well as the power of optimization and Moore’s Law ( see Amazon and the Enterprise IT Monoculture Myth), private clouds make more sense (“own the base, rent the spike”) for predictable workloads.

Recent related blogs:  SDN May Drive a New Data Center Development Cycle, Cisco and the Networking Industry: Golden Age or Golden Fleece?,  The Cloud and the Great Data Center Race,  Data Center Growth Drivers, and What Every CIO Should Know about Cloud Computing.


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