data center

6 steps to data center savings

Fourth of four parts.

Agencies continue to consolidate and virtualize servers under the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative, with savings — in space, energy use and, ultimately, money — as a primary goal. Here are six ways to help ensure a consolidation project comes up green.

More in this series

The game changes for data center consolidation

It's not just the number of data centers to be shuttered, but the size of those centers and the energy they consume. Read more.

State finds power in data center consolidation

Utah’s state government cut its number of servers from 1,864 to 591 and saved $4 million on its IT budget. Read more.

Boosting data center efficiency without upfront costs

Agencies can use Energy Savings Performance Contracts, under which they pay for work out of future energy savings. Read more.

1. Consolidate voice, data and video onto one IP-based network 

Aging analog phone systems are money pits, due to maintenance costs, dedicated personnel and electricity needs. The Energy Department’s Hanford site in Washington saved $8 million by purchasing a new Voice over IP phone system instead of a like-for-like replacement of its aging Lucent plain old telephone service. 

2. Virtualize servers

In a 2012 report, the IRS said it saved $10.2 million in equipment costs over two years from virtualizing its servers, and it expects an additional $1.3 million in annual savings as a result of lower electricity bills. The IRS said it could save another $7.7 million over the next five years if it virtualizes all of its servers. 

3. Virtualize desktops

Desktop computers cost twice as much as thin clients, consume 80 percent more power and require significantly more help-desk and other support services. DOE Hanford expects to save $40 million between now and 2019 by migrating its entire workforce to virtualized desktops and thin clients. 

4. Adopt energy-efficient cooling and power systems

One of the best investments agencies can make is modern air conditioning systems for their data centers. Utah bought an evaporated AC system and adopted hot-and-cold aisle containment, and it immediately started saving $8,500 per month in its electric bill. 

5. Deploy state-of-the-art storage systems

Storage represents 25 percent to 50 percent of data center expenditures, so it is an area for significant capital and operational savings.  Hanford is using 50 percent fewer storage drives – with commensurate savings in floor space and electricity -- because of NetApp’s cloning, provisioning, flash and other optimization technologies. 

6. Add environmental monitoring software to your IT infrastructure 

Environmental monitoring software allows data center operators to track efficiency on a real-time basis. Utah is using the Niagara Framework to record a Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) score ranging from 1.2 to 1.3, with 1.0 being a perfect score. 

About the Author

Carolyn Duffy Marsan is a writer based in Milwaukee, Wisc., covering enterprise technology.

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Reader Comments

Thu, Nov 21, 2013 Editor

Allan, we checked with Carolyn who said the $40 million savings refers to cost avoidance in hardware, software and help desk support for 6,000 desktops over a seven-year time frame. (i.e. through 2019). That breaks down to $5.7 million in savings per year. It also includes energy savings.

Fri, Nov 15, 2013 Allan

Sorry, but a $40M saving for 1500-7000 thin desktops in only 5 years is IMPOSSIBLE, unless Hanford is buying gold desktops. That number is only possible if the costs of implementing and maintaining VDI are not being included. Carolyn, any chance you could follow up and figure out how such an incredible savings is possible?

Thu, Oct 17, 2013 Allan Los Alamos

Comment for #1: Put all your eggs in one basket. If you IP network is great, so will your voice network. If you IP network goes down, no one can call to complain, so everything is still OK. Comment for #2: yes, virtualization can save money, but a 10 to 1 ratio for equipment and electricity? That seems pretty unbelievable. Comment for #3; See EricE's comment. VDI might be able to save some money at the right scale, but generally it's pretty risky to implement VDI to save money. Comment for #4: yes, buying more efficient appliances and actually designing your cooling will save you money. Duh. Comment for #5: Again, spending money to upgrade old things to new things is generally more efficient, except for the CapEx cost. Comment for #6. 1.2=1.3 is pretty darned good. Must be relatively new facilities, which must be nice. To sum up, invest a butt load of money, have new facilities, and also have unlimited staff to achieve all this, then you can start to save money.

Mon, Sep 30, 2013 EricE

The author might want to re-think #3, because VDI is not a cost saver. Not in the least. That doesn't mean it doesn't have a place, but pitching it as a way to save money is a sure fire way to get your VDI project deemed a failure. I highly recommend "The VDI Delusion" by Brian Maddox. It's a well reasoned walk through of what VDI is, and isn't. And even if you aren't really interested in VDI, I highly recommend it for anyone who manages desktops - they also give a nice overview of traditional desktop computing environments too.

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