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June - 2010 - issue > Technology
Facing-Upto-the-Green-Challenge-
Vikas Bansal
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
The case for ‘Greening’ the data centre

Businesses today rely on telecoms and data networking to run their organisations but this increasing demand has also had an impact on carbon emissions. In fact, “IT- equipment worldwide is responsible for roughly 3-4 percent of CO2 emissions which corresponds to the total amount of CO2 emitted by airplanes” says Simon Mingay from Gartner.

It is likely that global carbon dioxide emissions from Internet Data Centres (IDC) will continue to grow. For example, data centre energy consumption as a percentage of total US electricity use has doubled since 2000, and IDCs and servers will double their energy consumption again by 2012, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

In the UK, energy consumption from non-domestic ICT (Info-Comm Technology) equipment increased by more than 70 percent from 2000-2006 and is expected to grow by a further 40 percent by 2020, according to a report by the UK-based Environmental IT Leadership Team (EILT).

Making the U-Turn

Providing ‘greener’ telecoms and data networking is fast becoming a priority for all CIO and IT Directors today. This is a sea change in perspective – that has come about in just the last few years with many IT and IDC managers feeling caught between their existing IT best practices and environmentally-sustainable computing. They tell us that their data centers was never designed to be environmentally efficient and infact, were set up to cater for redundancy and failover; this by default, meant more servers than optimally required, leading to greater power consumption. Now, IT managers are having to look at options to make these data centers green.

These compulsions, actually, are not just restricted to the IT or IDC Manager level. Running of energy efficient datacentres will become more prevalent forming part of the defined responsibilities and KPIs of the CIO. Metrics will involve more efficient use of the IT budget, with enhanced performance and efficiencies – leading them to consider increasing use of virtulisation solutions and making data storage, retrieval and transfer far more efficient.

It’s not all over... there’s hope yet

Contrary to popular belief, there is a natural convergence between green practices and good business. Efficiency in business invariably means getting the best effect for the lowest cost. Additionally, the high cost of power means the potential savings from efficient IDC management are huge. Research firm IDC estimates that for every dollar spent on computer hardware, another 50 cents is spent on energy. It predicts that will increase to more than 71 cents by 2011.

Cable&Wireless sees the first part of reducing consumption as organisational. Interest needs to start at the top with support from the CEO and the senior management team. Naturally, any program to increase IT energy efficiency and reduce a carbon footprint also needs to be part of corporate social responsibility and environmental efforts.

However, most ICT departments are only marginally involved in their organisation’s social responsibility strategies and a significant proportion has never been asked to focus on energy efficiency. It is essential to mesh the IT group’s goals with the organisation’s facilities management team and establish baseline measurements on energy use and costs.

The second part is the design and running of data centres themselves. Many data centres today were built at the time of the tech boom. They tend to lack floor space, and have difficulty in accommodating today’s high-density servers. Energy management will become more and more an issue for IDC managers when procuring new hardware and in daily operations.

The third is to help educate the market about energy efficiency and to adopt standardized measurements. The role of ICT suppliers here is also critical. They need to be able to speak a common language with standard metrics. Currently, each chip and server vendor has its own definitions and green practices and according to an industry survey, some 60 percent of ICT professionals consider vendor environmental information from their suppliers to be confusing.

Finally, companies should fully utilise existing computing power through consolidation into fewer and higher performance systems. As they make commitments on carbon emission targets, government leaders need to recognize that their compliance policies can in fact add to the data storage load. Instead, governments need to provide incentives to ICT departments to implement Green IT practices and technologies as part of national carbon emission programs.

Reducing the impact and optimizing resources

With energy resources growing scarcer, and energy prices rising, this means data centre energy costs over the lifetime of a server could easily exceed hardware costs sometime in the future. Taking care of the environment is about a combination of solutions, services and improved processes that reduce the environmental impact while reducing both resources and costs.

Customers are looking for dynamic data centre solutions and a holistic approach to “green infrastructure” to save energy, cooling, space and resources but they need to have the right balance between business benefits and environmental benefits in data centre space.

Reducing the impact and optimizing resources

With energy resources growing scarcer, and energy prices rising, this means data centre energy costs over the lifetime of a server could easily exceed hardware costs sometime in the future. Taking care of the environment is about a combination of solutions, services and improved processes that reduce the environmental impact while reducing both resources and costs.

Customers are looking for dynamic data centre solutions and a holistic approach to “green infrastructure” to save energy, cooling, space and resources but they need to have the right balance between business benefits and environmental benefits in data centre space.
Businesses need to adopt a three-step data centre strategy:

* Reduce Consumption - Implement best-practices based technology and processes; offer products, solutions and services that aim to balance business and environmental benefits.

* Deploy servers, which as reduce power consumption of CPUs and I/O by improved, chip technologies and manufacturing processes. * Select server technology that provides improved computing performance per Watt of power dissipation.
* Increase efficiency of server power supplies.

Optimize Data Centre Infrastructure -
Offering more efficient blade servers and cooling technologies.

* Fully utilize existing computing power through consolidation onto fewer and higher performance systems.
* Improve utilization of IT systems with virtualization technology.

* Effective Use of Resources - Deploying more efficient blade servers and cooling technologies and are implementing IDC consolidation and virtualization.

* Flexibly control power consumption by means of dynamic IT solutions
* Actively seek the appropriate balance between power costs and optimal server performance * Reduce the energy costs to a minimum by transforming static data centres to a Dynamic Data Centre by creating pools of computer and storage resources that are provided with applications-on-demand.
* Better utilization by combination of blade server with virtualization methods and technologies.
* Integration of IT Management tools to react faster to resource allocation of servers. * Automated, intelligent information life-cycle management strategy (ILM) to put the data where it consumes the least power is key for an energy efficient storage pool.

Time for clear direction and action

Businesses today need to look at their current and future telecom and data networking requirements and make the changes now in order to reap the benefits in the future. By consolidating services, organisations will not only improve their carbon footprint, they’ll also be able to make cost and efficiency savings that will improve the bottom line.

The author of the article is Vikas Bansal, the Director – Carrier Sales, India and South Asia.

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