Power Plays

By Samuel Greengard Print this article Print

A good energy policy can supercharge an organization’s performance through direct electricity savings, a diminished need for facilities, and lower capital costs related to servers, storage and other devices.

Power Plays

Although a rise in energy prices is fueling the transition to a more efficient IT infrastructure, new tools and technologies make the goal of cutting costs and going green far more achievable. Intel and AMD continue to introduce faster and better processors that consume less energy. Server and PC producers have designed machines that pull less power or use electricity more efficiently. And IT administrators now have more powerful tools available to manage a data center and an enterprise computing environment.

One of the hottest areas is demand-side energy management analysis, which helps IT determine power profiles for data centers and other computing environments. For example, IBM’s Tivoli Monitoring software provides detailed data about energy usage patterns within data centers, along with information about energy consumption within the overall facility infrastructure.

Sentilla’s software measures energy consumption at the server level to generate a profile of use in a single snapshot. And Enviance offers a software-as-a-service platform that allows companies to centrally manage and report corporate social responsibility data, including greenhouse gases.

Newer systems provide monitoring and measurement tools at the source—and transmit data wirelessly from individual servers to the remote management system. Consequently, an administrator can see when and where the power load is peaking and take corrective action, thereby creating a far more proactive approach to tracking energy consumption and carbon emissions. That’s important, because one-third to one-half of overall IT costs are the result of energy consumption. And things aren’t about to improve. According to the Info-Tech Research Group in London, Ontario, lifetime energy costs will soon exceed the cost of servers.

The University of Minnesota understands this issue and is sold on the concept of system monitoring. Pete Bartz, assistant director of the Office of Information Technology at the 51,000-plus student institution, says the IT organization manages 80,000 ports and more than 50,000 endpoints. By automating network management and policies through Microsoft Active Directory and Entuity’s Eye of the Storm, IT is able to switch off about 25,000 devices each night, netting annual savings of more than $1.4 million.

The IT office also developed energy profiles for various departments and can monitor energy pull via a green dashboard. All of this is saving additional sums that run into hundreds of thousands of dollars, Bartz says.

Another way to monitor energy usage is with the U.S. Department of Energy’s free diagnostics and analysis solution, DC Pro. This software generates a profile that displays how servers and other devices draw power within a data center. It can break down information about specific energy streams and help system administrators view data about energy purchases, data center energy draw and savings potential, as well as provide a list of actions that are likely to lead to cost savings.

At the same time, industry consortiums such as The Green Grid, headquartered in Beaverton, Ore., have attempted to introduce metrics that are reflective of real-world use. Regardless of what software an organization uses to monitor and analyze power consumption, it’s essential to know how the data impacts the enterprise.

“One of the biggest problems,” Gartner’s Mingay observes, “is a lack of understanding about what is being measured and how it matters. The same data can lead to very different conclusions and actions, depending on how it is interpreted and used.”

This article was originally published on 2009-02-22
Samuel Greengard is a freelance writer for Baseline.
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