Data Centers

The "real skinny" on green computing

Virtualization also fits in very nicely with the idea of "Green Computing"; by consolidating servers and maximizing CPU processing power on other servers, you are cutting costs (saving money) and taking less of a toll on our environment. As a decision maker in your company, coming up with ways to save money through energy efficiency, and reducing your impact on the environment should be among the top concerns in 2008 and beyond.

 At an alarming rate, virtualization has invaded the data center. The rapid rise and success of virtualization is mainly due to large physical servers that are underutilized.  The costs to power these underutilized servers is staggering.

Virtualization also fits in very nicely with the idea of "Green Computing"; by consolidating servers and maximizing CPU processing power on other servers, you are cutting costs (saving money) and taking less of a toll on our environment. As a decision maker in your company, coming up with ways to save money through energy efficiency, and reducing your impact on the environment should be among the top concerns in 2008 and beyond.

There is a lot of talk about virtualizing servers in the data center but I am also seeing a new trend. It is the demand to reduce power consumption in the data center. Storage in your data center is probably about 10-25 percent of your total power consumption cost for the year. This is a significant chunk of money going out the door. If you could save money by implementing greener storage, it is your responsibility as a cost center to research it as well as your responsibility as a human being who wants to leave this planet a better place for the next generation.

The server consolidation initiative has been going on for quite some time now. It is probable that you have planned and begun a server consolidation strategy by implementing virtualization of servers and storage. You may even be reaping some of the benefits of driving costs and power consumption down by taking advantage of the CPU on lower taxed machines. You are also investigating and investing in technologies such as SAN, NAS, and IP storage; they are becoming increasingly popular in data centers. By researching and taking advantage of these more efficient technologies and virtualizing data, you are taking your first steps towards greener computing.

Now that you are heading in the right direction, it is time to take it one step further by adopting energy efficient techniques to lower your power footprint on the world we live in today.  It is not about "hugging trees", it is about saving money plain and simple.  I recently built a home and found out that the heat load on my home in Florida is greater in the winter than in the summer. It is because the sun is in front of my house and even though my windows are tinted, they do not block the ultraviolet rays and the house heats up. By replacing my windows with more efficient windows that block the ultraviolet rays, I can save money and impact the world that we live in by reducing my energy usage.

My point is that you should crunch the numbers and figure out just how much energy your storage uses and how much you pay for that storage. With this information you can begin to become more efficient. To find out how much energy your storage uses, contact the vendors of the storage to get the power and heat consumption of your drives.  You can take it one step further and find out the power consumption of the AC units to cool the drives.  Once you know how much electricity you are using and how much it cost to cool your data center, you can begin calculating your costs.

With your results, you can adopt conservation measures such as replacing older drives with newer drives that have variable speeds. You can take advantage of hybrid drives and upgrade your drive controllers to newer models that use less energy.

This is not a quick fix that can happen overnight. You can implement this one step at a time. For example, last year you may have consolidated servers, this year you plan to upgrade equipment to hybrid drives, next year, etc. Take it one step at a time. Create a 5 year plan.  Every little step you take makes a difference.

Green Computing is not just about saving the environment; it is about saving money and creating the most efficient data center possible. The rest falls into place and you are also impacting the world we live in for the next generation.

18 comments
steve277
steve277

informative and really good

stan
stan

It always makes sense to not waste resources, both for a business and personally. Thats just good policy and common sense. But if you think you are helping to "save the planet", thats just silly.

frerichsmarkm
frerichsmarkm

What bothers me on this new "going green" faze is that to do so, you must spend a lot of money to make it so. If we did do what is recommended by this article, does ANYONE actually believe the energy savings will surpass the initial costs (labor and eletronics)? The servers and/or hardware will have long passed their useful life before that happens. This is also not taking into consideration that most companies are either unwilling or fiscally unable to supply the funds necessary to "go green".

frerichsmarkm
frerichsmarkm

Have you ever looked into the cost vs benefits of the solar panels the "Green ISP" is touting? Generally speaking, if you covered the entire surface of a typical house roof, you'd generate enough energy to power 3 blow dryers. Don'rt even think what the inital cost is, or heaven forbid, consider whether you'd ever recover the costs from the savings gained from employing this method. I'm not saying to ignore the enviroment, but can we please use a little of our brain power and simple math to see it what you're about to do is actually cost effective rather than focusing on the politically correctness of the idea? We did go to college, right?

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

to sell products based on current fads. Look at compact florescent bulbs, technically toxic waste (mercury) but they are part of the "green" push.

svasani
svasani

Going green in most cases is not an expensive initiative. In fact, in many cases it has lower initial cost and a lower long term cost. Microsoft provides free virtualization application. Basic VMWare is free. On a different front, at our office we wrote a macro that allows users to print duplex using an easy button rather drilling through Print options. All done in-house. Going green has more perceptive bottlenecks than actual.

brian.mills
brian.mills

I think part of the idea of this article is to consider the greener alternatives when the time comes to upgrade/replace hardware at the end of its life cycle. For instance, when it's time to replace a few (or a lot of) servers, it won't be any more expensive to buy one powerful server and virtualize all the server roles on that one physical machine than it would be to buy a bunch of physical servers each running their own processes. At that point, it would most likely be cheaper, both in the setup and ongoing costs to only have the one physical server. There's a reason the article doesn't say that "going green" is an overnight process. It takes a lot of money, but it also takes a lot of money to follow an upgrade path that doesn't reduce environmental impact, so it's one more option to evaluate at the regular upgrade cycles.

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

Yeah, they probably went to college and were brainwashed with all this "were destroying the planet!!" crap. I'm with you, a little common sense and logic will go a long way. Yes we should be as efficient as possible just because it makes sense, not out of any misguided "we've got to save the environment now!!!!" nonsense. The environment doesn't need "saving." It can pretty much take care of itself with a little help from us (if you make a mess, clean it up). Fossil fuels are not getting scarce. We have TONS of untapped resources that Pelosi and crowd won't let us get at. Because of this, our gas money goes to unstable terrorist states that can strangle us at any time. The scarcity and high price is politically motivated. And, they can all be gotten at in a way that doesn't wreck the environment. Yes, we should look at better more efficient and less polluting ways, but it must be done logically and not emotionally.

wdewey@cityofsalem.net
wdewey@cityofsalem.net

I think you should do a little more research into solar panels. I was evaluating solar panels and, for where I live, the payoff was about 20 years. I live in an area that gets a lot of rain. In a sunnier region that payoff would be cut in half. Also this evaluation was over 5 years ago and solar panels have dropped in price and produce more power since then. Good quality Solar panels are guaranteed for 25 years. I am waiting for the solar panels that use optics to intensify the light on each solar cell to evaluate the cost again. They are supposed to provide about twice the power per cell. Bill

Noolan
Noolan

There's a little more to the financial argument than short term costs, and problems will be caused in the long run by people not thinking ahead. As time goes on power generated through traditional means (fossil fuel) is inevitably going to become more expensive as those resources become more rare, which obviously means running costs are going to go up as well. Just because a greener solution is more expensive at the moment doesn't mean it isn't worth looking into now. Without people showing interest and trying to implement these things in the present then there will be no incentive for companies to develop more cost effective methods of environmentally friendly power, and so everyone will be left between a rock and a hard place when traditional power becomes prohibitively expensive in the future.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Many environmental awareness companies no longer support/recommend the CFL's anymore. It was teh light bulb manufacturers that put teh big push on them, not environmentalists. in SOME cases, when disposed of at a proper recycliing center, they are worthwhile. In most cases they don't offer enough light and can get overly hot. They also can't stand cold temperatures well. In an ideal environment, with idea recycling, they are a fair solution. But in most cases, an LED light will be better.

frerichsmarkm
frerichsmarkm

Here's the difference of the imanginary world and the real world. Dream on! (If that's your thing...)

GreenPirogue
GreenPirogue

When one talks about "going green," I think a lot of us think (1) it costs more, and (2) it doesn't really do too much to save the environment. If a company really wanted to go green, one would try and eek out another year of service per CPU perhaps, saving the landfill of the older computers for a while. We have a computer replacement policy of 3 years - something that seemed appropriate 10 years ago. Now, I just had one of my computers replaced - it was three years old - and still very servicable. Actually, I got to keep the old machine and turned it into a server - it was a Dell workstation. It would have been more green friendly to let me keep my old computer an extra year or two. Most computers, after their useful life, are full of poisons and chemicals not really good for the water tables. I understand about saving energy - but that is only part of the equation. Oh, and letting me keep my old computer would have made economic sense as well. At home, I have a couple of Apple computers that are five and six years old - both still usable. All being equal, I think the Macs seem to last better - but I can't do my work in the office on a Mac. Well, not easily.

frerichsmarkm
frerichsmarkm

I agree with you in replacing computers when the time comes. My point is since the new generation of servers and desktops use less energy and with greater computing power, why bring the subject up to begin with other than to encourage/guilt people to replace their hardware now. Eventually, this will take place in the natural process of events over time anyway. If you doubt that this the case of this forum then I'd suggest taking a good look at the coverage the mass media is providing on the subject on "going green" and draw your own conclusions. All i'm trying to say is, we as a nation need to use some common sense rather than jumping in on the bandwagon without careful consideration. Otherwise, it's what I call just being "reactionary" to what's new in the world of hype.

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

It wasn't just the light bulb people. I heard a lot of "environmental groups" doing the same. Of course now that the mercury thing has been brought to light, they are changing their tune.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

There is no denying the electrical savings, the longevity... but the proper disposal is the issue. Personally I use my computer monitor at home... I tend to forget to turn on the overhead. "Dark? Its Dark? Really? Wait... who said that, I can't see you."