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Art Wittmann
Art Wittmann
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The Cold, Green Facts

Buying energy-efficient technology isn't the only--or even the best--way to cut down on energy consumption in the data center. Rethinking the way you use the technology you already have can make a bigger impact.


If the greenest data center is the one you don't build, then the greenest server is the one you never turn on. Server consolidation is the first step in maximizing your data center's potential. Not only will it save on power and space, but it can also offer the means for maintaining critical systems that require an out-of-date operating system on up-to-date hardware.

One dual-socket quad-core server loaded with lots of memory can replace 30 or more older, lightly loaded single-processor systems. The power savings just from unplugging the servers will be in the range of 12 to 15 kilowatts, which for Californians means a cool $15,000 per year off the electric bill, and New York's ConEd customers can figure it at better than $18,000. With the server costing about $10,000 and the virtualization software from VMware costing about the same (considerably less if you choose Citrix's XenSource), the investment pays for itself in a year.

Of course, the savings in terms of IT resources managing one rather than 30 servers is even more profound. We're not implying that managing 30 virtual servers is trivial--on the contrary, their virtual nature should be enough to force most organizations to automate server management tasks such as patch deployment. IDC finds that while server expenditures are increasing relatively slowly and may even flatten out with the multicore and virtualization phenomena, the cost of managing all those servers is growing nearly as fast as the cost of powering them. Since management started out as a larger cost, lowering it provides the best direct benefit to IT's bottom line. For many organizations, a well-thought-out server consolidation plan, along with such steps as automating patch management, can pay for itself in less than year, even with staff retraining.


Many organizations (and, until recently, vendors) dismiss the notion of managing the power consumption of storage systems as either impractical or inconsequential. Both notions are wrong. Particularly in data-intensive industries, the power, cooling, and floor space consumed by storage systems easily competes with that used by servers. Further, storage capacity as a whole is projected to grow 50% annually as far as the eye can see. So savings on storage system power and cooling is anything but inconsequential.

Similar to the server challenge, storage efficiency comes through better management and consolidation. Unfortunately, storage management remains an oxymoron for most enterprises. Sun Microsystems estimates that only 30% of enterprise storage systems are used effectively--a pretty alarming statistic since it comes from a storage vendor. Implementing a storage resource management system and actually using it is about the only way to recover that dead 70% of storage, but the benefit is unquestionable (see Savings Through Storage Management).

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