Virtualization: Another aspect of green IT

WASHINGTON ' As federal and state information technology managers develop strategies and deploy technologies to reduce power consumption in their facilities, they recognize virtualization does not only reduce server sprawl, it can also save energy.

The spotlight was on the benefits of virtualization and its impact on data center and server consolidation this week at The Green Computing Summit. The Summit was held by 1105 Government Information Group, parent company of Government Computer News.

Virtualization can make a single physical resource, such as a server, operating system or storage device, appear to function as multiple resources. Or it can make multiple physical resources appear as a single resource.

Server consolidation is what got Fulton County, Ga., into virtualization, but now the county is reaping benefits in training, testing, high availability/disaster recovery and eventually in virtual desktop infrastructure, said Jay Terrell, chief technology officer and deputy director of IT for the county.

The county has more than 200 Wintel servers, dozens of Unix/Linux systems, midrange and mainframes systems and 6,000 PCs. IT supports about 5,500 end users and 42 departments, he said during a session on virtualization and moving beyond consolidation.

The county discovered it had a lot of servers that were underutilized. 'We had a bunch of servers not doing much,' Terrell said. The county identified 125 candidates for virtualization and selected 31 servers. All of those servers will be virtualized by the end of the year. They have also brought on 48 new virtual production servers.

'With a virtual environment we can create any server in the data center,' except for those that aren't applicable for virtualization such as some telecommunication systems, he said.

IT can perform proof of concept testing for application and operating system upgrades before putting them into production environments, Ferrell said.

Virtualization has helped the county more effectively address disaster recovery and high availability issues.

'We don't have the money to do a mirrored data center, so we've focused on replicating data in real time to an offsite location,' Terrell said. The question came up of how they would bring up the number of servers they would need during a disaster. 'So we've used virtualization as a way to recreate a working disaster [recovery] type environment,' he added.

Also, now if a server goes down it can be rebuilt in ten minutes instead of four hours. And they don't have to spend extra money on hardware nor bring in the application vendor.

The county will be rolling out VDI in the future, starting with 34 libraries. The county has 700 PCs in libraries that need maintenance often. VDI will make remote support easier and boost security on the machines, he said.

Moving toward energy efficiency

During a session on 'Virtualization and the On-Demand Data Center,' experts gave a glimpse of how virtualization, cloud computing and autonomic computing could move organizations toward more energy-efficient computing.

Data center managers need better diagnostic tools to see what is actually going in their facilities, said Robert Ames, deputy chief technology officer with IBM Federal.

For instance, active energy management software can monitor and manage energy consuming components in IT systems and other devices in data centers. More cooling innovation is needed to reduce power consumption in systems. Air is an inefficient energy coolant and, as a result, water-coolant systems are making a come back, Ames said.

But a future trend that will bear watching is the union of service-oriented architecture and service-oriented infrastructure.

SOA focuses on efficiency in application development and reuse tied to business processes, he said. Typically, though, the underlying infrastructure supporting SOA is old and static.

SOI promises a more dynamic, resilient infrastructure that can provide IT services via a pool of resources such as web servers, application servers, database servers, servers, storage.

'SOA and SOI need to be together. You can have each one without the other, but they are better together,' Ames said.

Autonomic computing ' the concept of a self-starting, self-configuring, self-optimizing, self-healing and self protecting IT system ' combined with virtualization can be applied to save energy in data centers, said Daniel Menasce, senior associate dean and professor of computer science at George Mason University.

Menasce and colleagues have conducted an experiment with software-based controllers that absorb metrics such as response time, throughput, and availability from systems. Then those metrics can be used to meet quality of service levels.

Virtualization combined with autonomic computing will grow in importance due to its potential to deal with complexity and under utilization of resources, Menasce said.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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