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Smart IT keeps 22,500 cars off the highway

Plus it also turns into 300,000 trees planted, 133,140,990 lbs reduction in carbon emissions, and a whopping annual energy cost savings of $10 million at HCL.

Just how exactly IT and green thinking delivers these new ROI numbers is what Jagadeshwar Gattu, Vice President, DataCenter Services, HCL Technologies Infrastructure Services Division (HCL ISD) spills out in this interview. He also comments on many hotspots like zero emission data centres, ultrasonic humidification, harmonic mitigating transformers, variable frequency drives while he handles the good old debate on the right measuring tape for green IT.

Recently Research firm Ovum came out with new findings on 'sustainability' and how CIOs are taking an inadequate view of it, also hinting at the need for green IT audit and gap analysis as well as customizable approach for each department/business function. Is it a hint in the right direction?

HCL views Green initiatives enterprise wide and understands that Green goals can be set at an organization strategy level and then take a top down approach leading to green business processes and Green workplace for employees. Green goals can also follow at bottoms up approach wherein seeds of green initiative can be sown at IT level and then progress towards an enterprise wide green initiative. Looking at both approaches it is certain to have a convergence of green goals across an organization. Hence it is imperative for CIOs to realize the green horizon beyond just energy efficiency and carbon footprint reduction, and in fact look at greater opportunities of IT enabling business processes to become lean and thin.

Also considering, a complete product life cycle would consist of phases and processes right from conception stage through development, supply chain and disposal or recycle stage. There are enough opportunities of realizing green goals in each of these business processes and IT can definitely play an all encompassing role and hence the need for CIOs to realize this void and lead towards evolving sustainable business practices.

As you steer your company's transformation strategy, could you share something on green re-engineering and technology refresh cycles?

While performing asset refresh for its customers, we take into account not only the processing and compute efficiency of assets but also look at the carbon footprint. Besides this, other factors of assets such as ageing details and its alignment to customer’s asset life cycle and customer’s IT asset policies alignment to their business requirement. By considering these factors, we ensure that customer’s existing investment is best leveraged by “Sweating” their existing assets.

What intersection levels do hardware; networking and people components have on Green goals?

Hardware has a significant impact on the power and space footprint as highlighted by in-market technologies around these domains. These factors drive the upfront capex requirement and also on the on going opex. Networking or connectivity drives the information update cycle of an organization and is very critical especially for financial and trading companies. People factor holds as much importance for companies like us which are purely services offerings based.

In the same vein, would you agree with Ericsson's Hans Vestaburg’s statement that "Broadband is a pre-requisite to a low-carbon economy'?

The above thought and concept is in coherence this statement. Investments in telecom and mobile infrastructure will ensure advanced “virtually real” interaction among people using high speed tele meeting/conferencing, grid computing facilities. This would help people connect real time without being physically present at one location.

Talking of data centers in particular, are technology improvements like ultrasonic humidification, high efficiency harmonic mitigating transformers, variable frequency drives etc helping enough?

Yes, the technology improvements are helping in terms of achieving energy efficiency and power savings, however these require upfront investments and not ideal for retrofit kind of scenarios or leveraging existing infrastructure setups in data centers. In the case of Ultrasonic Humidification; air surrounding IT equipment can directly lead to its failure. Ultrasonic humidifiers rapidly vibrate water to create a fog or mist that is introduced into the air stream requiring humidification. The biggest advantage is energy savings as compared to other types of humidifiers; these require around 90 per cent less energy to humidify same size space. These humidifiers are also easy to maintain. Cleaning these is also easy but only if these are provided with purified water. The downside of not cleaning these periodically would lead to “charging” effect that can lead to static electrical discharge.

When it comes to harmonic mitigating transformers, as our world becomes even more dependent on electrical and electronic equipment, there is an increased likelihood that operations will experience the negative effects of harmonic distortion. The productivity and efficiency gains achieved from increasingly sophisticated pieces of equipment have a drawback: increased harmonic distortion in the electrical distribution system. Harmonic mitigating transformers (HMTs) are a leading solution to help eliminate these harmful harmonics and improve your system reliability. They eliminate transformer overheating and high operating temperatures, save energy by reducing harmonic losses, maintain high energy efficiency even under severe non-loading conditions and improve power factor. A Variable frequency drive helps in saving energy in appliances that run much of the time at partial speed and load. Air cooled chillers at HCL NJ DC are installed with VFD based motors.

Would (IBM's) concept of Zero emission data centre and changes around community heating, re-use of wasted heat, chip stacking, water cooling etc turn to practical scalable dimensions? 

Zero-emission data centers reduce the energy consumption by 40 per cent and directly reuse waste heat, for example, for space heating. This reduces effective carbon dioxide emission by 85 per cent. Efficiency and payback for heat cut energy costs by a factor of 2 with a return-on-investment of less than two years.

Water is an excellent coolant. This eliminates the need for today’s energy-hungry chillers in data centers. Moreover, high-grade heat at the output can be reused, for example, for space heating. IBMs breakthrough chip-stacking technology called “through-silicon vias” -- allows different chip components to be packaged much closer together for faster, smaller, and lower-power systems.

This project is a significant step towards energy-aware, emission-free computing and data centers. The chip stacking phenomenon would enable faster processing however, this would also lead to more energy or heat dissipation, which would require additional cooling. The water based heat reuse system is an effective green solution which would not require additional power consumption.

What do you make out of the debates around various Green Metrics - PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) Vs DCiE (Data Centre Infrastructure Efficiency) Vs DCP (Overall Data Centre Productivity i.e. IT's real value)? 

The PUE is defined as Total Facility Power/IT Equipment Power and its reciprocal, the DCiE is defined as 1/PUE  which is equal to IT Equipment Power/Total Facility Power x 100 per cent.

While both of these metrics are essentially the same, they can be used to illustrate the energy efficiency at the facility level and help in optimizing power requirement of infrastructure equipment. PUE indicates how efficient is the facility to deliver power to IT equipment while DCiE indicates per cent of facility power going into IT equipment.

To get a comprehensive metric which addresses both facility and IT equipment efficiency, DCP is introduced.  Datacenter Productivity (DCP) is arrived by the formula ‘Useful Work/Total Facility Power’. DCP focuses on amount of work that can be done by IT equipment hosted at data center. This metric takes into account the useful work which has value attributed to end user or business that is supported by data center. While data center productivity is much more difficult to determine as it is difficult and subjective to define and quantify the amount of useful work done, it is a key strategic focus for the industry. In effect, this calculation defines the datacenter as a black box – power goes into the box, heat comes out, data goes into and out of the black box, and a net amount of useful work is done by the black box.

Though PUE and DCiE focus on IT equipment effectiveness, DCP takes a holistic overview of a datacenter and all its component, i.e. Mechanical and electrical equipment besides IT equipment. To have any true value, PUE and DCiE also aren't benchmarks that can be done once or infrequently. They should be measured on a regular, if not real-time, basis at different times of the day and week.

So, HCL’s take then would be?

HCL’s take on the metrics is that a lot of activity has been happening around DC metrics, however no single metrics ensures comparison of disparate DC facilities around the globe. Each metrics comes with variable components and constraints which vary across different facilities, hence making like to like comparison of these facilities unrealistic.

Can you outline key expectations and plans your recent New Jersey Data Centre and how it fits with the company's overarching green horizon?

In addition to offering world class colocation services to our customers, HCL plans to differentiate its Tier 3+ equivalent New Jersey Data center by offering value add services such as industrialized delivery services, shared storage and backup, shared networks and security services and also cloud based services.

How do you exactly make sure that aligns with company's milestones on Green IT front?

The New Jersey Data center is using many green or energy efficiency initiatives such as air cooled chillers which can be used as economizers during cold weather to provide free cooling. These are also equipped with VFD controlled pumps to save on energy. It also entails state-of-the-art command center with Ergonomic chairs and consoles for 24/7 operation; and acoustic ceiling tiles. This would include space footprint saving in data center by optimizing the hot aisle area using seven-tile rule.

Talking of carbon footprint, how much has IT traversed from being part of the problem to being part of the solution?

An EPA Report to Congress on Server and Data Center Energy Efficiency completed in 2007 estimated that US data centers consume 1.5 per cent of the total US electricity consumption for a cost of $4.5 billion. From the year 2000 to the year 2006, data center electricity consumption doubled in the US and is currently on a pace to double again by 2011 to more than 100 billion kWh. This is equal to $7.4 billion in annual electricity costs. From the above fact and many other similar reports, it is clear the data center is a not only a major consumer of power, but a major contributor to a company’s energy bill. However, IT Companies and their corporate customers are changing the way computing assets are designed manufactured, operated, and disposed off to gain efficiency and cost savings, while reducing the environmentally harmful impacts.

And what ingredients define ‘Real Green IT’?

The Green IT solution encompasses the following phases: Formulation of a sound Green IT strategy; Designing and manufacturing greener products and Green procurement of energy efficient products which have complete green lifecycle right from inception to disposal. Talking of Data Center strategies, lack of power and space has been driving data center consolidation initiatives and structural and technological changes to the data center spectrum. Consolidation initiatives sometimes also lead to relocating data centers to cheaper locations and also 20-30 per cent reduction of space. Structural changes focus on redesigning/upgrading the data center flooring, power and cooling setup. Technological changes include server and storage virtualization, power management software. 

Anything on non-technology side?

There are behavioral changes like changing people’s attitude is also one of the important factors to achieve operational and process effectives making the organization lean and green. And in the area of recycling and disposal; eco friendly e-waste disposal policies and services have been incorporated to ensure toxic wastes are disposed without causing any harm to the environment.

Would offerings like Cisco Unified Computing System plug the gap as claimed?

Cisco’s UCS saves on travel and commuting by people across the globe thus reducing their carbon footprint. Unified computing solution also ensures that the compute, storage and network hardware components are integrated thus leading to a greener footprint (definitely on space if not power) and help in realizing green goals.

What's your strategy around idle computing resources and energy efficiency as a metric of IT operational effectiveness?

So far, HCL, using its Green DC Services has impacted cost savings for the enterprise by saving power to the tune of 11334 KW in a year which is equivalent to 22,500 cars off the highway, 300,000 trees planted, 133,140,990 lbs reduction in carbon emissions, reduced 15000 Servers through virtualization and annual Energy cost savings of $ 10 million.

By Pratima Harigunani for CIOL.com, Thursday, April 22, 2010

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