Server/storage virtualization can help energy-aware agencies become more eco-friendly -- and save money doing it
With the emergence of the green movement and the rising cost of power — accompanied by an inability to get sufficient power in some cases — data center optimization has become increasingly critical.
A fall 2011 survey of 321 government IT officials by the 1105 Government Information Group found that 80 percent of respondents from Defense Department and civilian agencies are very or somewhat concerned about green issues, such as electricity consumption, power availability and cooling. For more information about the demographics of the survey population, read the "Data Center Optimization Survey Methodology" section that accompanies the article, "How to relieve the pressure of data center consolidation."
There are a “growing number of justifications for adopting green technologies that reduce costs or maximize the use of existing resources,” says Greg Schulz, senior analyst at IT advisory firm StorageIO, based in Stillwater, Minn., and author of several books about data center optimization, including "The Green and Virtual Data Center." However, state and local agencies are significantly less concerned.
Lack of attention to environmental costs could be foolish in the long term. "Energy costs keep rising, floor space already is at a premium for some organizations, and [it] may soon be exhausted for others,” Schulz notes. Similarly, cooling and electrical power distribution capabilities are strained or maxed out. Meanwhile, government regulations for emissions and energy efficiency complicate matters. And government agencies of all sizes face a growing dependency on the availability of and timely access to their systems and data, all of which consume increasingly costly power.
When it comes to floor space constraints, more than 80 percent of survey respondents from the DOD and civilian sectors reported that they are very or somewhat concerned. Among state and local agencies, 65 percent reported concerns. Officials at civilian agencies are the most likely (38 percent) to comply with green efficiency mandates, more than the 30 percent of DOD employees who reported the same high level of concern.
Tips and tricks
Data center optimization is not a monolithic technique for boosting efficiency, especially when it pertains to power and energy. Rather, it involves a number of different initiatives that reduce energy consumption. “You can optimize servers to reduce server sprawl through virtualization and consolidation,” says Judith Hurwitz, president of IT consulting firm Hurwitz and Associates, based in Needham, Mass. By consolidating storage devices and increasing storage utilization through storage virtualization, agencies can reduce storage device sprawl and energy consumption. From there, agencies can apply the same consolidation strategy to network switches and routers, virtualizing them on fewer physical devices to boost utilization and further reduce the energy footprint.
Besides those initial steps, organizations can look into upgrading servers, storage and network devices. The newest generation of hardware consumes significantly less energy due to more energy-efficient processors combined with built-in firmware that will ratchet down energy consumption when the device is being lightly used, Schulz notes.
Other steps include rearranging the data center layout to create hot and cool aisles for more efficient air flow and cooling. Schulz also advises reducing the data footprint through:
- Archiving and compression/deduplication.
- Leveraging intelligent power management, including the ability to selectively stop disk spindles.
- Servers with adaptive power management.
Many government agencies have such tactics on the horizon. Almost half of survey respondents said their agencies are looking for better power and cooling system solutions. Many of the organizations looking for better solutions recently upgraded their power and cooling solutions but have conducted feasibility studies to justify new investments.
However, interest in energy savings and efficiency is not universal throughout government. About 20 percent of the respondents report that their agencies have not upgraded equipment — nor do they have any interest in looking for more energy-efficient solutions.
Reducing power consumption through server and storage virtualization is a proven way to optimize the data center and lower costs. That not only results in real savings on a monthly basis but also ensures the agency has sufficient power as it grows. As it turns out, an agency can do pretty well for itself — lowering energy costs, saving energy and ensuring a sufficient energy supply — while doing well for the environment, too.