Doing the Math

By Ted Hein Print this article Print

Virtualization proved to be virtuous and cost-effective for the environmentally conscious Burt’s Bees. Get a breakdown of what it took to really go green with virtual storage, measuring power consumption and following ISO standards for the environment.

Doing the Math

The most enjoyable part of any IT initiative is stepping back and looking at how much you’ve accomplished. At Burt’s Bees, hard ROI for our green IT program has always been secondary to simply doing the right thing. That being said, the numbers we’ve seen have more than validated our program in financial terms alone.

Using virtualization to eliminate the need for those 21 new servers was only the beginning. NetApp’s data deduplication technology has also enabled us to reclaim a tremendous amount of storage capacity. Basically, when we provision a virtual machine in VMware, that means we can have 10 machines with the same SAN space as would be required if they were physical. This reduces storage by at least 50 percent and also lowers heat generation.

Combined with NetApp flexible volumes, the data deduplication has allowed us to roughly triple the effective capacity of the SAN. Beyond VMware, by moving our physical servers’ storage onto the NetApp platform, we’ve been able to reclaim roughly 300GB to 400GB for every terabyte of storage found on the original server.

The hardware and virtualization savings alone paid for our green IT initiative. The rest came with the solution: energy savings, improved fault tolerance, recoverability and performance.

Our previous shared storage system had run into trouble once we got past our tenth virtual machine, as they all started to hit the disks in different places. At this point, the NetApp system is ready to support even more virtual machines than the 45 we currently have balanced across our three VMware servers, so we can scale our business with maximum efficiency in both capital spending and energy consumption.

Virtualization has enabled our 30-by-30-foot data center to reduce its energy consumption by 135,349 kilowatts a year, including cooling. Replacing our CRTs with LCDs saved us a net 70 kilowatts a year per display—for energy cost savings of $191.55, enough to pay for the upgrade. Multiply that by a few hundred screens, and the savings add up.

So, though our business grew by 26 percent last year—adding volumes in production and staff along the way—our total energy consumption actually dropped by 3 percent.

Green Today—Greener Tomorrow

One of the most important things to remember about green IT is that it’s a process, not a destination. You’ve got to be alert to new challenges and priorities, and make sure you’re making optimal use of every opportunity. Green IT really means inserting a sustainability lens in all you do—from each strategic project to your daily support operations.

Our next steps include extending our investment in VMware and NetApp to the desktop by switching to thin-client PCs with no moving parts. These small machines require less maintenance and fewer upgrades, and they consume as little as 5 watts of power, compared with 50 to 500 watts for traditional desktops and 50 to 90 watts for conventional laptops.

We are also keeping an eye out for new technology that may result in an appropriately sized flywheel-based uninterruptible power supply to replace our traditional battery-based UPS. Further down the road, it’s our goal to generate all our own energy on-site using sustainable technologies like wind and solar. In the meantime, we buy renewable offsets for 100 percent of our energy consumption.

Our green IT experience has taught us a valuable lesson: It’s easy to think of storage and servers as a necessary evil, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We don’t have to keep buying so much disk and server hardware. We can take advantage of advanced solutions that pay off in cost, performance, scalability, reliability and environmental impact.

It takes strategic thinking and perseverance to break out of old paradigms and embrace new technologies, but the ROI is well worth the effort. As energy costs continue to rise and new laws are passed, greener operations will also become a new form of competitive advantage. But, more importantly, it’s simply the right thing to do.

This article was originally published on 2008-11-26
Ted Hein is CIO of Burt's Bees', the N.C. based health and beauty products company.
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