Shades of green

From PCs to mainframes, agencies look for ways to boost efficiency, cut consumption

How green is your agency's computing environment? Administration mandates and rising electricity costs are leading senior managers to reduce energy use, often by containing power and energy consumption in data centers and other facilities.

From desktop PCs to high-end mainframe servers, green is in this spring.

'What's happening is the electric bill ends up on the chief financial officer's or chief executive officer's desk and they say: 'Holy mackerel! We're spending $18 million a month on electricity.

Who's the big user? Who's using all this electricity?' ' said Robert Rosen, chief information officer at the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases and former president of Share, an IBM users' group.

Usually the information technology organization is at the top of the list. The IT manager is then charged with reducing electricity usage by 20 percent ' without cutting services, of course, Rosen said.

Anything vendors can do to reduce energy costs but still maintain system performance will be an aid to data center and IT managers, he said.

Here are some of the latest PCs, blade servers, mainframe systems, storage and asset management software geared for greater energy efficiency.

Efficient PCs

More power-efficient PCs can help IT managers save on energy costs and reduce the environmental impact of their technology.

Earlier this year, Hewlett-Packard released two new energy-efficient business desktop PCs, including one that has a solid-state hard drive (SSD), which offers improved reliability.

The models are the HP Compaq dc7800 Ultra-slim Desktop PC with SSD and the HP Compaq dc5800 Business PC. They meet the stringent environmental requirements of the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) Gold registry.

The EPEAT registry helps businesses evaluate, compare and select technology products based on their environmental attributes, such as meeting the Environmental Protection Agency's latest Energy Star energy-efficiency requirements.

Blades that cut power

All blade vendors are making strides in energy efficiency, said James Staten, an analyst at Forrester Research, a market and research company. They tend to leapfrog one another with new technology advances, he said.

Organizations are deploying blade servers to achieve better power distribution throughout their data centers, he said.

The PowerEdge M-Series is Dell's latest effort toward energy efficiency in the data center, focusing on three key areas: power supply efficiency, intelligent fans and systems management, said Glenn Keels, director of PowerEdge Servers at Dell Global Commercial Marketing.

With the M-series, IT administrators can set thresholds for power consumption and dynamically move power usage at the blade or chassis level, Keels said.

The M-Series also provides lead-free configurations designed to minimize the servers' environmental impact.

SuperMicro also has released a family of energy- efficient and Earth-friendly blades.

OfficeBlade is geared for office environments, and DatacenterBlade is for data centers and high-performance computing with support for 14 blades in a seven-unit enclosure.

'OfficeBlade's focus is on quietness and low power consumption,' said Tau Leng, director of marketing and system validation at Super- Micro. Small and midsize businesses or branch offices don't have IT rooms. IT workers often put servers in a rack in the corner of an office so the noise level has to be reduced, he said.

The DataCenterBlade features a 100- to 240- volt range of alternating current and ultrahighefficiency redundant power supplies along with increased density and performance per watt.

All IBM servers from the Unix-based Power series to the Z mainframes are designed to do more work at lower wattages, said David Anderson, IBM's green architect for System Z.

Oregon has achieved significant power savings using the IBM Power 6, the latest generation of the P series, which runs on IBM's AIX operating system and Linux platforms.

Oregon recently completed a multiyear network consolidation of 11 agency data centers into a single facility in an effort to improve service, productivity and energy consumption, state officials said.

The new State Data Center, in Salem, provides a shared IT infrastructure that serves thousands of state and local government programs and businesses, and as a result, millions of people.

Power savings was not a key driver in IT purchases several years ago, but green initiatives have gained momentum in the state, said Mark Reyer, Oregon's state data administrator.

Oregon standardized all its Unix systems onto the IBM P6. 'The P6 platform is a significant power savings over the IBM P5,' Reyer said. 'Our Unix consolidation has yielded about a 12 to 15 percent power savings in the data center on that alone.'

IBM's P6 architecture includes the company's EnergyScale technology, which lets users measure the energy of the system and direct policies toward the energy-efficient operation of the server.

With a feature called Live Partition Mobility, users can run partitions from one P6 server to another, conserving power by moving workloads off underutilized servers.

At the high end of the server line, IBM recently introduced the System z10 mainframe, which offers increased data center efficiency, improved performance and reduced power and cooling needs.

The z10's 64-processor system uses Quad-Core technology, is built to be shared and offers greater performance compared to virtualized x86 servers to support hundreds of millions of users, company officials said.

IBM said it can collapse 1,500 PC-class servers into one mainframe with 85 percent cuts in energy costs and floor space.

'I don't believe someone will go out and buy [the z10 mainframe] because it uses less energy, but I think it will certainly be a consideration when people are ready to upgrade or are looking at getting a mainframe, or for people looking to consolidate lots of Linux machines,' Rosen said.

As more people look to consolidation as a way to cut electricity costs, the mainframe's energy-efficient capabilities will be taken into consideration, he said.

'Clearly, you have to do the whole analysis, and you've got to have an environment that needs that level of processing capability,' Rosen said. 'You're not going to find somebody who says, 'Gee, I have five Intel servers, I'm going to consolidate them on a mainframe.' '

Weight issue

If your agency is about to undertake a massive systems consolidation, another consideration is whether your data center floor can hold a mainframe machine, he said.

'Those machines are downright heavy,' he said. 'If you've just built your data center to hold rack after rack of Intel-based servers, and now you want to replace all of those with just one box, is your floor going to hold it?' 'That's a concern of ours in our data center not [just] with mainframes but with some of the storage [systems] we bring in,' Rosen said.

'We're up on the 7th floor, and we don't want our disks to end up on the ground floor.'

He said he agrees, though, with the idea of the mainframe approach. Greater computing power, specialized processors for Linux and database workloads, and automation all can help organizations looking to improve their data center efficiency or consolidation.

IBM doesn't publish list prices for its System Z mainframe series, but industry sources report prices ranging from $100,000 to $1 million.

Another way to reduce energy consumption is by integrating the management of energy and assets.

The Infor Global Solutions Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) Asset Sustainability Edition lets organizations gather information from all their energy-consuming assets, including IT systems; production equipment; heating, ventilation and air conditioning; chillers; boilers; and lighting.

Senior managers can then determine how and when to maintain, replace or change assets based on all relevant costs.

Take a reading First, users must set benchmarks for their equipment to determine an energy consumption starting point, said Rod Ellsworth, vice president of EAM business solutions at Infor.

Data is continually collected from an asset. Each asset an enterprise monitors is connected to a wireless sensor that provides information via a mesh network to the EAM software.

The application can determine the cost/benefit of replacing an asset with newer equipment.

However, the application does not automatically collect data on comparable equipment from the Internet or a database for comparison. That information is manually entered by a user based on published information from the hardware vendor.

EAM's Emissions and Natural Resource Management capabilities lets facility managers monitor and control their organization's emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide along with fugitive emissions such as refrigerants.

The solution is the only enterprise asset management application that has EPA Energy Star certification to reduce energy consumption, officials at Infor said.

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