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It’s no surprise that the idea of delivering low-cost “compute” is foreign to many data center facility managers. In most organizations, facility management and IT are in separate silos. The facility department deals with physical-infrastructure issues in isolation, and IT deals with compute, also in isolation. An organizational structure like that hobbles efforts to improve data center efficiency. Only top management can change that structure, as executives at eBay did as part of an effort to control data center expenses.
It’s easy to see why the two departments should be combined, Koomey says. “The people working in data centers are smart and dedicated and they know what the problems are. But if you don’t reward them for fixing the problems, those issues won’t get fixed. And you can’t reward them unless it’s one team and one budget. It just doesn't happen. Ultimately, you have to align the incentives.”
The consolidation of the eBay facilities and IT departments went hand in hand with the company developing its own set of data-center-performance metrics known as DSE or digital service efficiency. “In the past, the facilities and IT folks hadn’t been speaking the language of the executives,” Koomey says. “They hadn’t been speaking about overall performance related to the business In terms of key performance indicators that executives care about.” The goal was to show things like cost and revenue per transaction, or costs and revenue per server, so executives could see how changes in the provision of IT affected the business.
The DSE metrics are shown in a dashboard that enables eBay executives to drive efficiencies in their organizations. “Many execs think that the data center is this big black box. They don’t know what’s inside, they just know that they need to pay for it,” Koomey says. “And the transition is going to be away from that “black box” way of thinking towards computing that generates business value in a predictable way, and that can be influenced by the needs of the business.”
In developing its DSE metrics, eBay started with the advantage of having relatively homogenous compute needs compared to a bank or retail operation, Koomey says. But he believes that, though finding metrics will be more challenging for many other organizations, those companies will also want to identify their own key measures based on business value. “They’ll come out with a different set of metrics, but at the end of the day they still need a way to relate costs, energy, emissions, and performance,” Koomey says.
For facility managers in companies where facilities and IT are different departments, Koomey’s advice is to develop a solid relationship with IT. Top management already understands the business need to invest in IT. As a result, an IT manager often has an easier time than a facility manager winning money for facility projects connected to the data center. “That's why having those relationships with IT is critically important,” Koomey says. “If you have strong relationships, it becomes easier to get the money you need to do what needs to be done to keep the facility working reliably and efficiently.”
Facility managers can also help themselves by learning to speak the language of the business. It’s much easier to get the attention of management, Koomey says, if facility managers express themselves in a way that shows they understand that the purpose of the data center is to create business value.
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