Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Saving Money in Information Technology and the Data-Center

Green Technology : Energy-Savings Techniques

Saving Money by Reducing Energy Consumption

I was just reading the Computerworld top 12 green-IT organizations list for 2011, and after many pages of reading, it was clear that certain energy-savings strategies were quite common across the range of companies featured in the article. I am all for saving energy, as this not only reduces the carbon-footprint of an organization, but it also saves money!

Some of the techniques noted should spur ideas about how you and your technology organization can save money by focusing on being "green".  Here is a summary of how the top-12 companies made substantial strides in reducing their energy consumption through energy-savings initiatives that led to real and measurable financial cost savings too:

  • Virtualization: this is a significant savings opportunity for many of the companies featured in the roundup of green IT organizations.  Virtualization is moving beyond server and network virtualization and into the virtualization of desktops also, for some of these companies.  The ultimate objective of this push into virtualization is to consolidate (computing) workloads onto as few machines as possible and achieve very high physical-machine utilization rates.

    Allstate Insurance was featured for its ability to reduce its total computing server and device count by 3,000 units while realizing a cumulative energy-reduction of nearly 40% in the past several years. NBC Universal virtualized 60% of their physical servers and shut down 2,000 physical machines. Northrop Grumman posted substantial energy savings through widespread virtualization also, and they are considering thin-client desktops for further savings. Citigroup has gone as far as to require all new servers be virtual, unless physical servers are justified; this has reduced their power and cooling requirements by 73%.

  • Cooling system efficiency: modern data centers pack incredible amounts of computing power into confined areas, and as such they require substantial cooling systems (i.e., air-condition).  Kaiser Permanente was a focus company in this area, as they achieved energy-consumption savings across their three data centers that are nothing short of incredible, "cutting an eye-popping 7.2 million kilowatt-hours of power from overall data center operations [this year] -- and over $770,000 from power budgets."

    How did they do it? They focused on everything from sealing up air leaks (which provided the biggest win) and a sophisticated real-time monitoring system for measuring cooling system efficiency.  They were able to reduce cold-spots in the data center (which are signs of inefficiency) and avoid overprovisioning power distribution and cooling infrastructure in general.  NBC Universal was also mentioned for having implemented similar smart power distribution units and rack-level environmental and power metering sensors, allowing them to increase rack densities by as much as 200%.

  • Raising ambient temperature (in the data center): the IT group at KPMG was featured for its efforts, which included "raising the ambient temperature in the data center to improve efficiency by more than 5%, raising the temperature of the water in the cooling tower to improve efficiency by 5%".  Raytheon was also featured for how IT cut energy use in each telecommunications closet by 30% when it raised the temperature by 10 degrees Fahrenheit to 75 degrees

    One related news bit I did not see mentioned in this Computerworld article was how Dell has recently announced that some of their servers (currently the R610 1U and R710 2U varieties) are capable of running at what is essentially typical outdoor-ambient-air-temperatures (in nearly all of the USA, and nearly all year round).

    These run-hot-capable Dell products (and Dell, the company and the stock: NASDAQ:DELL) are worth watching, as the energy-savings implications are huge for these high-operating-temperature Dell servers. There are also Dell storage arrays, switches, and power-distribution units that are certified to run hot.  I expect more computers (especially servers) will end up being certified to run hot like this, which could vastly reduce cooling costs for IT facilities as ambient air temperatures could approach outdoor levels (as such, lower cost air-movement by way of fans vs. chillers could perhaps become the norm for much of any year). 

  • Blade-Server technology: KPMG was again featured for its migration to blade server technology, with "the average blade server consuming about 50% less power than a comparably configured rack-mounted server".  Other firms were mentioned for their push to increase rack computing densities through such means.

  • Data-Compression and storage de-duplication to reduce physical hardware required to house company data.  The finance firm State Street was noted for its efforts in this area where they reduced storage use by between 40% and 50%.  This should lead to about a similar percentage savings on both power and equipment costs related to storage.

  • Private Cloud Computing and High-Performance-Computing (HPC) Clusters were mentioned by some of the top-12 energy-saving firms. "Baker Hughes created a high-performance computing (HPC) cluster that incorporates wake-on-LAN technology. In this environment, machines are turned on -- or "woken up" -- via a network message, and the company can wake up machines for use in the HPC cluster as needed. This setup uses 40% less energy than a dedicated HPC pool."

  • Solar Panels have been installed by some of these firms (KPMG), and surely other type of alternative-energy will become more common in data-center planning in the future.  I didn't see any mention of things like backup power based on modern fuel-cell technology or micro-turbines and such, but I would expect that some of this is in play for various firms.

  • Telepresence to reduce travel. Various firms, including KPMG and Allstate, were mentioned for taking steps to reduce employee travel, not just locally, but nationwide inter-office travel as well.  Technology for streaming video and web-conferencing are employed to make this possible.

    To me, it seems incredibly obvious that one of the largest "green" moves any firm can make is to enable workers to work from home whenever possible.  Though, simply put, I do believe that many workers are just utterly incapable of managing their time and remaining focused while working at home as they let all the distractions of home interfere; this explains why, with all this modern technology that would make a vast number of jobs possible from home, there still is not widespread work-from-home opportunity.  It will probably require $10/gallon gasoline to make a substantial change in this area.

1 comment:

blade server technology said...

As a Dell employee I think your blog about blade server is quite impressive. I think a blade server is a server chassis housing multiple thin, modular electronic circuit boards, known as server blades. Each blade is a server in its own right, often dedicated to a single application.