Virtualization and Other Solutions

By Samuel Greengard Print this article Print

Return on investment is a key measure of Green IT's success. Energy prices, a recession and evolving public attitudes have altered the way businesses view energy-efficient technology. Savvy enterprises now recognize the benefits of going green.

The complexities of managing a data center and overseeing a green initiative continue to grow. More-powerful servers, denser configurations and more sophisticated needs—including understanding how virtual and physical assets fit together—provide new challenges, along with new opportunities. “The design and layout of the data center are only part of the green equation,” PwC’s Singh notes.

Still among the hottest areas of green IT initiatives are server virtualization and consolidation, which offer substantial savings. In fact, it’s not unusual for organizations to trim energy costs and consumption by 50 percent to 90 percent through a combination of blades and virtualization. That’s because most servers use only about 15 percent of their available computing cycles, while consuming 60 percent to 90 percent of the normal workload power—even when the systems are idle. 

An added benefit of blades and server consolidation in general, according to PlanNet’s Davis, is an ability to reduce the cabling and devices that support the infrastructure. “The best way to be green is simply to not deploy systems and equipment that are underutilized or that aren’t necessary,” he explains.

To be sure, putting all the pieces together and creating a comprehensive strategy for green IT remains the ultimate goal. Ford Motor Company, for example, has embarked on an ambitious program to understand the carbon impact from a wide array of materials, parts, products, modes of transportation, plants and suppliers—as well as IT systems. Ford uses PTC’s InSight product analytics software to view these factors throughout their life cycle, explains Monique Oxender, global manager for supply chain sustainability.

Another company determined to go green is Tesco, a United Kingdom-based supermarket chain with 4,331 stores scattered around the globe. It aims to slash its carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2020 and become carbon neutral by mid-century. 

IT will play an integral role in sliding the dial from goal to reality by becoming more efficient and helping the organization introduce technology solutions. “Green IT doesn’t have to involve a big financial investment,” says Mike Yorwerth, group technology and architecture director. “It’s more about attitude and approach.”

PlanNet’s Davis says that organizations such as Ford and Tesco are beginning to understand that a comprehensive green strategy pays enormous dividends and ripples throughout the business. “They can’t ignore the market dynamics and the need for a positive corporate image,” he says.
Moreover, the green concept reaches far beyond simply issuing press releases and trumpeting achievements. 

“It’s about becoming the type of company that appeals to consumers, reducing their costs and future-proofing themselves,” Davis explains.
In fact, some companies have sought out data center locations with renewable energy sources and favorable climate zones. Google’s 75,000-square-foot facility at The Dalles, Ore., for example, relies on hydroelectric energy.  

Last year, Google announced plans to build a wind-powered data center in Council Bluffs, Iowa. And it recently entered into a deal to buy wind power for the next 20 years to power its data centers. “Companies are increasingly looking for locations that have a greater opportunity for ambient air exchange,” Davis says. 

Others are turning to water collection systems mounted on roofs and adjacent areas to facilitate evaporative cooling. Some are relying on fluorescent lighting and using motion detectors to switch lights on and off as needed in data centers. Still other organizations are turning to LED lighting to lower costs further. Although lighting pales in cost and consumption to the electricity used by servers and other data center equipment, “a lot of small gains add up to big gains,” PwC’s Singh notes.

In the end, experts say that IT must play a larger role in the greening of the enterprise. By adopting green technology and practices and looking for ways to leverage technology across the enterprise, it’s possible to reduce the environmental footprint while providing green IT solutions that drive further business gains. Initiatives such as data center consolidation, green building techniques, advanced cooling strategies and virtualization help an enterprise tap into cost savings while creating a positive public image. 

“Organizations must put sustainability at the center of their business philosophy,” PlanNet’s Davis concludes. “It’s no longer a fringe issue. Today, it’s part of running an IT department and a business effectively.”

This article was originally published on 2010-08-13
Samuel Greengard is a freelance writer for Baseline.
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