Heading Off the Crisis

By Elizabeth Millard  |  Posted 2008-04-21 Print this article Print

Mounting storage needs have led to soaring energy consumption, just as an energy crisis is looming. Can IT become more efficient before all the juice is gone? 

Although there may be challenging years ahead in terms of power consumption, some enterprises are finding ways to increase efficiency without having to purchase a significant amount of new equipment.

At Tucson Electric Power Company (TEP), for example, there’s been a focus on server virtualization and consolidation, notes Chris Rima, supervisor of IT systems, adding that the center has virtualized over 90 percent of its servers, saving about 50 percent per year in infrastructure and energy costs.

“The strategy is important for energy conservation,” says Rima. “It was started out of necessity, actually, because we ran out of UPS [uninterruptible power supply] capacity and we needed to buy more time before we could upgrade our older data center.”

Although the virtualization push bought TEP an extra two years, it also proved to be a boon for cost containment and a reduction in power consumption. Also, as a utility company, demonstrating the importance of power savings to customers has been a powerful driver. “It’s important for us to set an example,” Rima notes. “What we’ve done can be replicated in any commercial environment.”

Given its industry, TEP is acutely aware of power consumption issues, and the IT managers there feel that it shouldn’t just be utility companies that are diving deeper into this particular challenge.

“Strategies like provisioning and virtualization are evolutionary,” says Tony Edelbrock, TEP senior systems administrator. "This is a big deal, and it appears to be the future of enterprise computing." He added that companies with environmental constraints -- covering power, UPS, and cooling -- are using virtualization to overcome the limitations, while still managing to provide additional resources to their clients.

In addition to virtualization and consolidation, enterprises should start seriously rethinking how IT issues are handled, Brill says. “This is a crisis that requires radical changes in order to go away, and those changes need to come from the top.”

At most organizations, he says, IT is aware of facilities costs and power-management topics, but COOs, CEOs, and even some CIOs, have little idea that there’s cause for concern.

Brill recommends that companies appoint an “energy czar” whose sole focus is on creating metrics, tracking efficiency and tweaking strategies, such as buying more efficient hardware, disposing of comatose servers and setting ambitious goals.

“Senior-level executives don’t appreciate the magnitude of savings that can occur,” says Brill. “There needs to be a mandate from the highest levels to make people pay attention and develop these new skills at power management. And we don’t have any more time to waste.”


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