TSO Logic aims to take data center energy wizardry to non-techies

Not every company has the technology to build the sort of management dashboard that eBay uses to convert the energy consumption profile of its data center into kilowatt-hours per transaction and other business metrics. That's why server and power management company TSO Logic decided to create one of its own.

The company's new Data Center Efficiency Console is the first commercially available energy metrics dashboard. The tool is designed to help non-tech executives and managers better understand specific levels of power associated with running certain applications or business services, said TSO Logic founder and CEO Aaron Rallo.

The dashboard measures performance indicators such as cost per transaction, power usage by power source, average use levels, revenue per server, cost per user and even transactions per kilowatt-hour, much like eBay's Digital Service Efficiency (DSE) dashboard. TSO Logic works with companies to help them fine-tune what's measured into the most appropriate metric for their business.

A tool for those outside the tech world

Facebook is developing similar dashboards for measuring energy and water consumption, and using that data to drive data center capital expenditures. Both eBay and Facebook have published the methodology behind their tools, so that other companies with substantial data centers or cloud computing infrastructures can apply their own scenarios.

TSO's tool, however, could be very useful for companies that rely heavily on data centers but aren't necessarily in the technology business. The console was developed to work with TSO's data information management (DCIM) software, Application-Aware Power Management software, but also can be teamed with similar DCIM technologies and building management systems from other vendors.

"The current and most widely adopted data center metrics only tell half the story when it comes to energy efficiency," said Andrew Donoghue, European research manager for the market research firm 451 Research, in a statement about the new technology. "[The tool] is similar to eBay's DSE approach, but TSO Logic's dashboard is an actual commercial tool."

Rallo declined to offer specific pricing details for TSO Logic's technology, which is licensed on a per-server, per-month basis. But he suggested that the return on investment (ROI) could come within just one month, based on the electricity savings that can be identified.

"It can be implemented without a lot of capital expense or additional pain on the network to include the executives that are paying the bills," he said. "It allows us to engage at a different level within the organization. They can at least factor this data into other business decisions or measure it better so they can reduce energy consumption."

Potential dashboard benefits

The idea for the Data Center Efficiency Console was born out of engagements such as TSO Logic's work with Toronto-based Arc Productions. The company uses TSO Logic software to manage the power draw for the data centers it uses to produce massive animation projects, including films such as "Gnomeo & Juliet."

The studio expects to save at least $463,000 in electricity costs over the next five years due to changes it made to better match when its servers are running to when they are really needed for specific work. Arc Productions tends to use its servers sporadically, but even when they're not in use, the equipment can suck up a lot of power. TSO Logic's software is used to shut down servers when they're not in use.

It took Arc Productions about 12 hours to install TSO Logic's new dashboard and get it up and running, Rallo said, but a more complex environment would take longer to set up. "We've tried to make it so that this doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing solution, but just something that can serve as a great ROI analysis for future projects," he said.

For a sense of how this sort of tool might help your own company, consider the example of eBay, which has used its DSE dashboard to drive far deeper employee engagement behind its energy consumption reductions. The company uses its dashboard to publish the least-efficient and most-efficient servers across the company. Last year, one developer discovered that by making a simple change to the amount of server hardware memory allocated to certain cloud services, eBay could shut down 400 servers. The net effect was a $200 million cost avoidance because those servers don't need to be refreshed or replaced.

Photo of servers by Sehenswerk via Shutterstock