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May 7, 2010 • Vol.32 Issue 10
Page(s) 27 in print issue

Buying Green
When It’s Time To Add Equipment, Establish Policies & Define Vendor Relationships To Ensure Green Practices

Key Points

• Administrators should always look to procure products that are specifically designed to run in an energy-efficient manner.

• Vendor management via specifications and contractual relationships can ensure that green considerations are hard-wired into the equipment procurement process.

• Investments in tools that deliver techniques such as asset virtualization, power management, and cloud computing to the data center can generate quick payouts and significant returns on investments.

Today, good environmental stewardship—in other words, “thinking green”—is on everyone’s mind. Because they consume so much energy, data centers are logical places to identify ways to go green.

There are numerous ways green strategies can be implemented in the data center, but perhaps the most effective one is ensuring that new equipment purchases meet or exceed standards for energy efficiency. Manufacturers are striving to develop and market equipment designed to conserve energy, so procurement personnel should keep such equipment in mind when making purchasing decisions.

Compelling Reasons To Go Green

In spite of the fact that “going green” appears to be the hip trend du jour, the fact is that it can generate significant savings for organizations. That is quite a boon for data center administrators looking to cut costs because of budget pressures.

Here’s an example: Chuck Graff, director of core network technology at Verizon (www.verizon.com), says the company saved 91 million kilowatt hours and more than 114 million pounds of CO2 avoidance because of energy efficiency standards it set up for its network equipment suppliers. According to Graff, Verizon became the first company in its business segment to establish energy efficiency standards for equipment procurement.

Going green can generate significant monetary savings for organizations looking to cut data center expenditures. Steve Suesens, category manager at Staples Technology Solutions (www.staplestechnologysolutions.com), says going green when purchasing new data center equipment can save money simply because newer products are designed to use less energy, generate less heat and waste, and last longer. Energy equals heat in the data center, says Suesens, so a more energy-efficient piece of equipment requires less cooling. Finally, in a world where regulation of CO2 emissions will be taxed sooner or later, using more energy-efficient equipment will help organizations avoid financial penalties.

Demand Green Products

The first step toward going green when procuring data center equipment is simply to ask for it. Suesens says administrators should develop green specifications and standards as guidelines for purchases. Also, he adds, procurement officers should include green performance clauses in contracts, enabling enterprises to enforce penalties or terminate contracts of suppliers that don’t meet their contractual green commitments.

Christopher Maylor, director of IT for Verizon, recommends asking hardware and software vendors for refined power management capabilities. As an example, he explains that Verizon talked to vendors about incorporating instrumentation into PCs that enables direct measurement of power within the computer.

Additionally, administrators should seek top management support to ensure they are on board with green equipment purchasing initiatives. This strategy can send a clear signal to vendors that green considerations are important.

Power Considerations

The power required to run data center equipment is the most direct impact this equipment can have on the environment. And for data centers, inefficient power consumption across many servers can lead to significant spikes in energy costs.

The use of blade servers instead of traditional servers can, at first glance, immediately result in power consumption savings. However, administrators should consider the impact of denser blade server architectures on existing power and cooling equipment, says Brace Rennels, senior manager of global Web site strategy at Double-Take Software (www.doubletake.com).

For example, Rennels says, consolidating a large number of physical servers to smaller virtualized blade servers can make existing power and cooling infrastructure ineffective or, at best, not as efficient. This is because an area cooling unit may have to work harder to cool a dense server architecture, Rennels explains. He recommends admins purchase high-density power and cooling solutions specifically designed for smaller virtualized blade environments.

Another smart power strategy, says Joshua Goodstein, senior network engineer at JDL Technologies (www.jdltech.com), is for administrators to purchase switches and routers equipped with power-aware ports, which Goodstein says can enter a “sleep mode” when no data is going through equipment data ports, thus calibrating power usage to actual device use. This results in significant power savings because equipment in sleep mode uses a fraction of the power required to run it. Goodstein adds that newer wireless devices are also designed to shut down their radios whenever no network traffic is detected.

For more detailed information on green power and cooling strategies, see “Responsible Power & Cooling” on page 26.

Virtual Computing, Real Savings

Virtualization and consolidation are hot trends in computing today, and rightly so: Eliminating power-consuming servers or storage using virtualization can lead to concrete energy savings. In that sense, virtualization can help administrators purchase less equipment by enabling the most efficient use of existing assets.

For example, storage virtualization enables administrators to spread read/write operations across all available drives, says Bob Fine, director of product marketing at Compellent (www.compellent.com). This means that companies no longer have to designate specific numbers of drives to certain servers. Storage virtualization creates a dynamic pool of storage resources shared by all servers, maximizing available assets and eliminating the need to constantly add disk drives.

Double-Take Software’s Rennels says the first step toward implementing green IT is adopting more flexible and efficient platforms to help reduce power consumption. But, he warns, administrators may be reluctant to take on such a project because it requires the migration of data and applications from existing servers to the blade platform. So, Rennels recommends that administrators look at procuring real-time and live migration products that remove the complexity of new infrastructure migrations.

by Sixto Ortiz Jr.


Top Tip: Talk To Vendors & Their Customers

A way to ensure that equipment procurement follows “green” guidelines is simply to establish ongoing dialogues with equipment vendors and manufacturers. Rob Salvatore, director of infrastructure compliance and green initiatives at SunGard Availability Services (www.availability.sungard.com), says administrators looking at equipment purchases should talk to different manufacturers and learn the specifics of their product offerings. Also, he adds, administrators should talk to companies already using a potential solution. Finally, Salvatore recommends that administrators should not rely solely on manufacturers’ data; instead, they should create their own models based on all resources available.
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