The Deepest Shade of Green
For an IT operation, "going green" is about more than remembering to shut the lights off when you leave and dumping soda cans into a recycling bin. True cost-saving opportunities can be realized by cutting wasteful energy. However, it takes a hard look at the numbers to get to your own personal point of best efficiency, and you shouldn't expect an instant ROI.
03/23/09 6:00 AM PT
Talk is cheap when it comes to going green. It's one thing for IT managers to remind a company's workers to throttle back on wasteful energy use now and then and recycle old equipment effectively; it's quite another to implement real energy-saving procedures. More times than not, companies do more talking about being green than actually working to greenify their operations.
Running a deeply efficient and non-wasteful IT operation is much more complex than simply being "green" or "not green." It's all a matter of degree. What's more important for managers to ask is how deeply green can they get. In today's sour economy, motivations for going deep green have changed drastically.
Becoming a more ecologically minded enterprise will be an operational imperative to bring an organization with data center activity or numerous banks of servers considerable savings. Greening up, while helping the environment, is more a way of helping the bottom line.
"Companies are finding that efficiently managing data is making a huge impact on the amount of energy they are saving," Mike Logan, president of Axis Technology, told TechNewsWorld.
The trick to maximizing the greenery comes from deleting excessive consumption. Over time, the cost keeps adding on, Logan said.
He sees a lot of companies discussing how to become less wasteful. Ultimately, however, the operations folks get involved and try to combine the concept of getting greener with a way to speed up a return on investment for upgrading equipment.
Typically, operations managers push for a better ROI in six months to one year. They assume that by consolidating through technology such as virtualization, the savings will speed along.
"Six months to one year is unrealistic in most cases. They find out that what they were doing may not have been so inefficient," he said.
Dance a Two-Step
The starting point in becoming greener, according to Logan, is cleaning up an inefficient array of hardware. That process involves consolidating equipment so power-consuming computers and servers are not ineptly idling when they are not needed.
Reducing hardware to run what consumes power more efficiently is the first part of the process. The second step is to upgrade in order to achieve greater efficiency and reduce consumption.
"The goal of going green is still an achievable goal for both cost savings and an overall change in how data centers are architected," Alan Murphy, a technical marketing manager with F5 Networks, told TechNewsWorld.
Reducing the number of physical servers is the primary method for ging greener, especially in the data center. That one change results in less raw power consumption to both power the servers and the equipment that keeps them cool.
The key is reducing idle time as well as network switches and routers drawing power to feed those idle servers. Implementing virtualization is one key to making that happen, according to Murphy.
The typical path: Virtual platforms and virtual servers from companies such as VMware and Microsoft. The challenge with virtualizing, howver, is that it becomes a numbers game.
Shades of Green
For instance, more virtual servers typically mean a one-to-one reduction of physical servers in the data center. Yet more physical servers are often needed to host all of these new virtual servers. Upgrading to larger servers requires more power and typically uses about the same number of network ports, noted Murphy.
"Many virtual servers won't save money and consume less resources by reducing the amount of electrical draw and cooling. However, the degree and balance of this savings verses the implementation costs before and after need to be weighed before a massive green initiative is undertaken, Murphy said.
In other words, the key to a successful green migration is how the virtual platforms and virtual machines are utilized. This is where the intelligent provisioning of services comes into play.
Control the Throttle
When it comes to planning a greener IT environment, the data center manager should function as the power miser. If the combination of virtual platform and virtual machine is implemented in a just-enough manner, the data center manager can closely couple application need with power and cooling consumption. The application need translates into a specific number of virtual servers.
"During light periods, such as the middle of the night for a CRM application, those virtual servers can be deprovisioned and not use any power or cooling resources. As needs increase during business hours, the virtual servers hosting that CRM application can be provisioned incrementally to address just enough application need, and thus drawing just enough power and cooling from the data center to feed those critical virtual machines and the application," explained Murphy.
Products for Greening
New pressures to save costs and reduce energy requirements are pushing IT organizations to find products to get greener. Products such as VMware's vMotion and vCenter are available for provisioning virtual servers. Application delivery virtualization and real-time application service provisioning can be managed with products such as F5's Big-IP Local Traffic Manager, suggested Murphy.
Together, tools like these allow services in the data center to be spun up and down as need dictates, drawing only the exact amount of power and cooling to help achieve a green data center. Other tools for greening up IT environments are based on best practices to reduce energy requirements and drive efficiencies.
Five steps will help IT managers prune their green operations, offered Jose Iglesias, who heads Symantec's overall strategy for helping customers achieve more green IT environments.
- Upgrade hardware and data center design.
- Consolidate servers.
- Prioritize storage use.
- Implement data deduplication.
- Deploy power management tools.
Another approach to a deeper shade of green is based on the simple premise that you cannot manage what you cannot measure. To help companies figure out what is consuming energy at the device level and how much, Raritan Power IQ Energy Management software provides real-time power information on each server.
The Axis Technology DMsuite is a data masking tool that profiles, masks, audits and manages data in a standardized, automated manner. It helps companies cut down on the amount of electricity and equipment necessary for data centers by consolidating data as it protects it, according to Logan.