Going Green in the Data Center

The Green Toolkit

Of the many tools available to take a data center green, the most sensible area to attack first is the servers. While actual savings will vary by IT operation, there is clear cost benefit to driving up operative efficiency. “This is really what green is about in IT: electrical efficiency,” explains Aldrich. One of the best ways, he said, to improve efficiency is to implement virtualization in tandem with upgrading the facilities that support IT.

At Cisco, Aldrich has achieved as much as a 20% efficiency gain through the deployment of server and storage virtualization. “Many people do not realize the biggest efficiency gains resulting from virtualization actually result from reduced cooling cost. These cooling savings are indicative of the fact that in IT going green is more about the IT architecture than it is a point-product. Ensuring facilities and IT have the proper balance is at the heart of improved efficiency and reduced risk.”

Others agree with the Cisco call. “The business case for virtualization is clear and compelling—significant cost savings, greater flexibility, better management, faster and more reliable recovery, better security, etc.,” said VMware’s Perilli. She said server consolidation allows organizations to remove four tons of CO2 emissions from the environment for every server removed, which is equivalent to taking 1.5 cars off the road.

“Now that electrical costs have, in most cases, surpassed the cost of the actual hardware, virtualization is one of the most attractive technologies available today both financially and environmentally,” said Cisco’s Aldrich.

Servers are energy hogs and they are getting the attention of CFOs who are now setting their sights on reigning in energy and facility costs. IBM’s Cefola said servers account for 50 to 75 percent of the data center’s total floor space and the average utilization is five to 15 percent, meaning the server sprawl represents a challenge in high maintenance and support costs and the associated energy required to run them.

“After consolidation and virtualization, server environments typically change to servers accounting for only 20 to 50 percent of the data center’s total floor space by achieving consolidation ratios from 6:1 to 20:1. It can also improve their server utilization rates up to 80% which results in typical total cost of ownership savings from 30 to 70 percent,” he said.

Beyond optimizing the physical plant and implementing virtualization, Aldrich offers these additional steps to ensure your data center goes fully green and stays that way:

Specify highly efficient products in requests for pricing. Look for greater than 85% efficiency power supplies.

Benchmark the efficiency of your IT operation. You can’t improve upon your current situation if you don’t know where you are today.

Deploy Ethernet to monitor, measure and manage power consumption for both IT and facilities. You can manage what you can measure.

Perform regular utilization audits to ensure you are getting the most out of your IT assets.

At the end of the day, going green is a newbie experience as there are few long term models to follow. Part of the responsibilities then lie in sharing the wealth. “Share your best practices with the industry. We are all in this together and the importance of these issues surpasses typical competitive boundaries,” said Aldrich.