Use Resources Wisely

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To make your IT infrastructure more environmentally friendly, you must first sow the seeds of change. Here are several ideas for greening your silicon patch.

It took some convincing, but now it’s clear that there are an abundant number of reasons to pursue a higher level of earth consciousness. In less than a decade, the public discussion on seeking more energy efficient technologies for the data center has shifted from one driven by seemingly transient and superficial hype-cycle messaging to a series of responsible core corporate values with empirical social and business benefits.

For businesses, the kernel of the conservation discussion is where green ideas convert into greenbacks. Conserving resources saves money, period. Consider the following:

  • Greening your infrastructure reduces power and cooling costs because green technology, which is more efficient than older hardware platforms, requires less energy.
  • Greening through the consolidation of servers and sites leads to more efficient management of data centers, which translates into cost savings for you.
  • Green IT is composed of several technologies that all have the goal of reducing power consumption and overall data center footprint, consolidating locations and resources, and improving the efficiency of operations.

Indeed, discussions of green technology now extend beyond the public relations department. Once fervent perennial antagonists, corporations and environmentalists are now—occasionally—converging on the points of clean, healthy, sustainable and more contentious. The common ground between environmental responsibility and corporate profitably can be observed in the following overarching elements of a green IT strategy:

  • Server or site consolidation provides a more flexible and efficient platform that helps reduce power consumption. Consolidation usually means migrating several physical systems to virtual machines that run on one or a few physical servers. This need not be a complicated or expensive undertaking. Real-time and live migration products take the pain out of migrating to new infrastructure, including eliminating most, or all, of the downtime necessary to do so.
  • The energy savings available from server consolidation can be considerable. A typical x86-based server consumes between 30 and 40 percent of its maximum power even when it’s idle. Consolidating underused servers onto a single physical server eliminates much of that energy wastage by reducing the number of idling systems.
  • There is one caveat to consider: When consolidating infrastructure, evaluate your disaster recovery plan and the ability to protect your architecture from failure. A virtualized blade server rack can host dozens of servers, each of which may contain eight to 10 virtual hosts. Because there are more servers in a single rack space, redundancy becomes more important. Should a physical system hosting several virtual servers fail, the interruption to business operations will be more significant than for a single, pre-consolidation physical server failure. This increased risk means that it’s even more important to provide comprehensive disaster recovery and fault tolerance for consolidated infrastructure than for unconsolidated servers.
  • Implementing virtualization technologies helps with consolidating environments and also provides the flexibility to use only the power required to run those virtual machines. Instead of multiple single servers dedicated to a single function, multiple workloads can run on one machine even when the workloads employ different operating systems. Once physical servers have been converted to virtual servers, the data center will see the benefits of more efficient processing.
  • Consider moving to the cloud, which is the ultimate in virtualization and consolidation. Cloud computing can reduce the number of servers in your data center, which may reduce your costs. If you would typically host your transactional web server farms or commerce applications, you can use the cloud to provide those services instead. The cloud frees smaller companies from the burden of a data center, while larger corporations use the cloud to host less critical or lowertiered applications to further reduce their data center footprint.
  • A cloud-computing vendor can virtualize the systems serving several customers. Economies of scale make it practical and profitable for the vendor to invest more heavily in green technologies. As an added benefit, using the cloud can enhance backup and recovery capabilities and reduce the costs typically associated with tape-based backups.
  • Optimize power and cooling requirements. Consolidated environments require less energy to power and cool than an entire room, or possibly multiple rooms, of unconsolidated physical servers. Use a high-density power and cooling solution designed specifically for a smaller more efficient virtualized environment. These solutions keep the dense architecture at an optimal temperature without cooling the entire data center.
  • Look for free energy savings. There may be ways to reduce energy consumption by simply reorganizing your data center. For example, rearranging the servers in your data center into what’s known as a “hot aisle/cold aisle” configuration can reduce cooling costs by improving airflow. This involves aligning server racks in rows with the fronts of servers in one row facing the fronts in the adjacent rows and, when there are several rows, backs facing backs. This way, the hot air exhausted out the backs of servers isn’t blown into the cool air intake in the fronts of other servers.
  • Employ technology to extend energy savings beyond the data center. It may be trite to say, but the Internet is ubiquitous. Depending on the types of jobs they do, many employees can work from home over the Internet and come into the office only when a face-to-face meeting becomes beneficial or necessary. Reducing office space requirements will, obviously, reduce real estate costs, but there are also green benefits to be derived.
  • Office space has to be heated, air conditioned and lit. Thus, if some employees work at home and the company takes advantage of this by reducing its office space, the company’s energy use will decline. At the same time, there won’t be a significant increase in the employee’s household energy use because most people don’t adjust their home thermostats when they leave for and return from work. In addition, if other household members already work from home or are otherwise at home during working hours, household lighting costs will increase only marginally.
  • Employees will consume more energy at home to run their PCs, but that merely shifts the energy use from the PCs that they would have otherwise used at the office. Companies may consider compensating employees for this shift in energy consumption.
  • Eliminating employees’ commutes probably delivers the largest green benefit of a work-at-home strategy. Thousands of employees logging hours of commuting time each week pump considerable CO2 into the atmosphere. In addition, those commutes add significantly to tire wear and tear. Thus, eliminating commutes prevents the spewing of greenhouse gasses and results in fewer worn-out tires being sent to landfills. There is also a big benefit for employees. Eliminating commuting costs puts more money in their pockets at the end of the month.

Becoming more environmentally friendly isn’t just the mantra of the green movement anymore, and its core tenets are not difficult to embrace. Apart from financial incentives, there are other rewards like knowing you did your best to make the world a better place for your kids.

Relative to green technology, there are a number of software products available to make migration, virtualization, backup and recovery streamlined and inexpensive. Just a few changes can save your organization enough time and money to deliver a significant return on your green investment.

About Robert Gast 8 Articles
Robert Gast reports on emerging information management technologies for business and serves as a technology writer for Vision Solutions (www.visionsolutions.com). Vision Solutions, Inc. is the world’s leading provider of information availability software and services for Windows, Linux, IBM Power Systems, Virtualized and Cloud Computing markets.

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