The power of green

DQW Bureau
28 Nov 2008

The biggest challenge for a datacenter today is to go green. And this is not
because we have suddenly become very nature friendly but it's because at the end
of the day when we save nature by cutting down our power, cooling, space, heat
emissions, etc we directly or indirectly save costs. The reasons for this are
simple. IT is a must for every business, and as the business grows, an
organization needs to invest more on the IT infrastructure. With the rising
energy costs, more IT equipment translates to higher costs of power consumption,
and also more space, which anyways comes at a premium. So, if products continue
consuming the power they have been consuming, then it could have serious
implications. Last year, Gartner estimated that ICT accounts for two percent of
global CO2 emissions, which is the same as the aviation industry. That's a high
figure by any means, and unsustainable as suggested by Gartner.

To understand this need of going green, let's take an example. It's about an
office in Gurgaon. The office has around 400 computers and a small data center
with somewhere around 30 servers and five blades which eat up around 150 to
200KW of power in a day. The consumption includes the power consumed by the
cooling and lighting equipments running in the data center as well as in the

In Gurgaon power is a major problem and to address it, the company has a 320
KV diesel generator which eats Rs 1,000 worth of diesel every hour and also
throws out a lot of pollutants. But, surprisingly, when in the night the city
undergoes major power cuts for hours and the office is closed, except the data
center which is a 24x7 operation. So, the data center should not require more
than a 20 KV generator, the same 320KV generator is used and a lot of fuel is
burnt without any reason and a lot of money goes for a toss. Such a situation is
nothing but wrong planning and is very common in our neighbourhood. Below we
talk about some of the key technologies that should be used in a data center to
make it greener.


Every organization today is combating the evils of server proliferation in
the datacenter. There's a server for just about every application: mail, web,
proxy, business apps, security, content management, file sharing and so on. The
sad part is that their average utilization hovers around 30-40 percent, if not
less. And yet they continue to run 24x7 and consume energy even when they're
idle. So, in effect, you're paying the energy cost of servers, which are idle
almost 70 percent of the time. Virtualization allows you to abstract the
hardware from the software. So a server, which traditionally runs a single OS
and application in the data center, is able to run multiple OSes and apps
simultaneously. This would allow you to load a single server with more
applications and increase its utilization. This reduces the number of servers in
the data center, and also helps you defer your server purchase. In the second
week of September this year, Intel has released its 7400 series Xeon processors
which has six cores per processor. Such innovations are driving the industry to
go greener with more widespread use of virtualization.

Cloud Computing

If you extend the concept of virtualization from a single server to a
complete grid, and make its access available over the Internet, it's called a
Cloud. Just imagine, if virtualizing a single server can save you 50 to 70
percent of resources then how much savings will happen in case your complete
data center acts as a single grid and is then virtualized.

Power and Backup

It's always good to use renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind.
But it might not be feasible for all data centers to go for such deployments as
the costs are huge and the RoI is slow. But there are certain things which can
be easily done, such as using UPSes instead of generators.

Yes, even though UPSes are not great for the environment, but they have their
share of goodies as well. First, they don't eat up oil and second, they save a
lot of smoke and money.

Moreover, they preserve power. So, going back to the Gurgaon data center
example, we can easily replace the generator with a UPS, and so when the
utilization of power is less at nights, the UPS will only supply the desired
amount of power and will increase the backup by preserving the unutilized power.

Blade Servers

A single 7U blade chassis can take up to 14 blades which saves your real
estate space and in turn reduce the ambient cooling requirements. Blade servers
are generally built with specialized processors which eat less amounts of
electricity. In Intel's dictionary these processors are called LV (low voltage)
processors and their performance per Watt is higher than others, but are not the
highest performing processors in the lot.

The other benefit which you get with blades is that most of the blade vendors
today provide chassis which are both backward and forward compatible, which
means you can easily replace the existing servers with new ones as and when they
are available, and can do more virtualization to consolidate instead of buying
new servers. The vendors also provide buyback schemes for old blades against new
ones pretty often, so it also solves your e-waste problems as you don't have to
throw away those blades. It's not just servers and blades that need to go green,
many components today come with a greener version. These versions are
essentially products with slightly reduced performance and better power
efficiency along

with less harmful elements in the body of the device. A lot of such products are
available out there, And yes, all these components are a part of your
datacenter, so if while building or upgrading a datacenter, you should look
forward to such equipment.

Source: PC Quest

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