Becoming Environmentally Friendly

By Bob Violino Print this article Print

Virtualization, green IT, and cloud computing are helping organizations transform their computing resources.

Becoming Environmentally Friendly

For now, organizations are aiming to make their data centers more efficient. Earth Rangers, a Woodbridge, Ont., nonprofit organization dedicated to educating children about green practices, has used virtualization and energy-efficient blade servers to make its data center a more environmentally friendly facility.

The organization deployed a virtualized infrastructure using technologies including VMware software, blade servers from Dell and continuous data protection software from FalconStor Software. The data center is housed in a 100-square-foot space, and by creating a virtualized environment on energy-efficient blades, Earth Rangers has saved nearly 85 percent of energy costs compared with a non-virtualized environment.

“We virtualized 48 servers on just three Dell blades, all within a single enclosure,” says Rob DiStefano, IT systems manager. “If we had used 48 1U servers, we would have needed a data center 10 times the size.” Earth Rangers manages its 65 virtual servers from a single console using VMware’s software.

The data center is housed in the Earth Rangers Centre, a showcase of sustainable technology that DiStefano says uses 80 percent less energy than a traditional building its size. The building incorporates an eco-efficient green roof, and Earth Rangers operates a VPN that enables more than half of its staff to work from home, another environmental benefit.

Another organization that’s aiming to increase the efficiency of its data center is St. Charles Health System, a Bend, Ore., health care provider. St. Charles launched a server virtualization effort about five years ago in order to increase reliability and minimize its dependence on internal IT support, says Dennis Martin, technical manager.

The company now operates more than 700 servers in its data center, half of which are virtualized. As it brings on new servers, about 60 percent will be virtualized. “In order to fit all [the servers] into a small footprint and minimize the costs and associated power, we needed to move to blade technology and virtualization,” Martin says.

St. Charles uses blade servers from Hewlett-Packard and virtualization software from VMware, and both have contributed significantly to increased server utilization and efficiency. The organization has seen a 30 percent reduction in data center energy consumption since the virtualization effort launched. The more efficient data center, maintained by BendBroadband, a local firm, has contributed to an overall saving of $7.1 million in IT operations over a five-year period, including a hardware refresh, says CIO Bill Winnenberg.

Another benefit is that St. Charles can maintain its IT operations with essentially the same staffing levels from several years ago, even though data volumes have grown. There is also greater stability. “We have the ability to fail over from one blade to another, or we can shuffle servers from one environment to another, manually or automatically,” Martin says. “Using a green facility has also enhanced our relationship with the community,” Winnenberg adds.

This article was originally published on 2011-10-03
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