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The “real skinny” on green computing

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.