Going Green in the Data Center

By Jurrie Van Den Breekel On August 27, 2009
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Maybe it’s not easy being green, as the infamous flannel frog pointed out decades ago, but being un-green is no picnic, either. Many data center managers rate their top three concerns as security, availability and energy.

Data center costs, including energy, have climbed eight-times since 1996. When high-density blade servers can push power requirements past 30 kilowatts per rack, the transition to more efficient systems can have a huge impact not only on energy usage, but operating expenses. Especially considering that a watt saved in power is another watt saved in cooling. It’s like a save-one-get-one-free sale on watts!

The more efficient power supplies now available mean less power wasted in conversion and distribution. However, many of the energy savings are only available for those who enable the power management for their servers, something many data centers don’t do. The reliability of the power management tools concern some managers, as uptime and performance are key issues for any data center.

When it comes to servers, the metric of interest is the correlation between utilization and energy. Legacy servers tend to use at least 30% of peak power even while idle. Obviously, for maximum efficiency the server should run at greater than 30% utilization, but 6% to 15% is more typical. The move to virtualization partially addresses this concern with more powerful blade servers running many virtual machines at higher utilization, allowing administrators to find the sweet spot between performance and power.

Virtualization, multiplay, and network and service convergence, all result in a greater demand being placed on the network infrastructure. Devices may be decreasing in power as it relates to energy usage, but they are increasing in another kind of power - performance, features, protocol depth, and number of queues, routes, sessions, or tunnels supported. And this increase in the density of functionality and performance per rack places a greater burden on test systems.

In the greening of the infrastructure, test systems are often overlooked. But test systems are not and should not be exempt. They should also deliver more power (functionality and performance) while consuming less power (energy).

You should ask some pointed questions when it comes to your test systems:

  • Are power requirements (per port and per rack) decreasing?
  • Are functionality and performance (per port and per rack) increasing?

As you simultaneously reduce your carbon footprint and your operating expenses, make sure your test systems are working with you.

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