Taking a Sustainable Route to Green IT
Swapan Johri, Sr. VP- Transformation at HCLISD
Green IT is not about buying a lot of jazzy ‘green’ hardware. It is about holistic efficiency, and that should make it a more sustainable transformation.
Concerns over global warming, energy conservation, and social responsibility are leading to an unprecedented amount of media coverage about all things that need to go “Green”. Not only is there increased press coverage, but environmental protection issues are also gaining much more visibility with IT managers too.
Going Green can be both environmentally responsible and cost efficient for an enterprise. A successful Green initiative not only increases the availability of IT infrastructure but will also help reduce costs for the enterprise. It can also be a platform to bring in a new level of discipline in IT provisioning and management.
IT has been on an unsustainable path for years. Huge data centers are feeding on electricity; millions of computers burn up processor power performing background processes, many a times while their users are in meetings; add to this, piles of emails and documents needlessly printed off and never read.
If these factors alone are not reason enough to sign up to become a Green IT company, there are countless more. Many UK and EU regulations and campaigns demand greener businesses. Employees are increasingly ‘Green aware’ and want to see their company contributing to the solution rather than exacerbating the problem. Sooner, rather than later, someone—your boss, a big customer, or a government agency—is going to want to know what you’re doing to comply with, support or advance your company’s efforts to become more environmentally responsible.
Defining Green IT
Green IT projects are implemented with the aim of increasing energy efficiency of IT hardware, IT Data Centers and other assets. Since IT consumes very large quantities of renewable and not so renewable resources like silicon, platinum and others, a big part of Green IT implies reducing electronic waste. IT also consumes space on the planet through Data Centers. Thus, Green IT also means reducing the Data Center footprint on the environment
Data Centers are at the heart of Green IT
While ‘Green’ IT merits a long discussion, for the want of time and space we can perhaps focus on the heart of the issue today, which lies inside the Data Center of an enterprise.
The Data Center is often the engine that drives the growth of the enterprise, and energy efficiency is the key here. According to a recent AFCOM Data Center Institute survey, 50% of every dollar spent on a new server goes into the energy to power and cool it. The Lean & Green consortium predicted that by the end of 2008, the cost of powering a server would even exceed the cost of the server itself.
In fact, as per some reports Data Centers consume between 1.5% and 3% of all the power generated annually in the USA— at the high end, that’s equivalent to the electricity needed to power the state of Michigan for a year.
Therefore, power management is a key aspect in achieving a Green Data Center. Simple acts such as turning off unused lights, PCs and other devices are powerful and strikingly easy changes. Furthermore, in many organizations the ‘power save’ features do exist, but have not been activated. Energy Star standards also enable us to determine the impact of equipment before we buy them. At the next level, we need to ensure an equipment layout that optimizes cooling.
When considering using environmentally friendly techniques, companies should take the Green IT effort beyond power saving through tactical ways. Today, the need is to transform the Data Center footprint through more sustainable strategies like consolidation and virtualization, which offer a more long-term solution to the problem.
Zooming in on the Virtualization buzz
Virtualization reduces the server footprint and therefore improves energy efficiency of an enterprise. Implementing server virtualization can result in significant savings. Estimates by VMware and PG&E Co. state that direct energy savings for each server removed via server virtualization runs between $300 and $600 per year.
In fact virtualization is today becoming a strategy of choice for CIOs across the world. Experts and practitioners agree on the fact that virtualization of Data Centers not only improves performance, but increases IT efficiency, cuts power and cooling costs, and makes disaster recovery as easy as pushing a button.
According to Gartner, virtualization would be the highest-impact trend changing infrastructure and operations through 2012. Analysts at Gartner state that the leading edge of this change is server virtualization, which promises to unlock much of the underutilized capacity of existing server architectures. According to the research agency’s figures, there were about 540,000 virtual machines deployed around the world, not including consumer usage. By 2009, this figure was expected to soar to over 4 million. It’s obviously much higher today.
All these numbers validly represent the growing demand and adoption of virtualization in enterprises across the globe.
Consolidation is another option. If you are not prepared to launch the virtualization project, you can consolidate your existing server. This can be done first by looking at application optimization and then drilling that down into complete requirement mapping. The next step is analyzing the application server maps that are in place and then consolidating servers according to that. These are again long term programs that need to be well planned.
The holistic approach
The key to handling the complexity of ‘greening’ an IT Data Center is to take a holistic approach. An enterprise must look at all the aspects of environmental impact instead of focusing only on the most obvious ones. Many a times, a plan on paper may yield consequences way beyond what was originally expected. Therefore, planning and implementing the initiative in a phased manner is the secret to energy efficient and clean IT.