A decade ago, green computing was a concept mostly relegated to a handful of granola-crunching environmentalists who just happened to have the title of CEO slapped in front of their name. Then came the Great Recession, a radical jump in the cost of energy and a younger generation that embraces sustainability. Suddenly, green IT represented a bona fide way to slash utility bills.
Today, green computing has gone mainstream in the enterprise. Computer manufacturers design servers and storage devices for greater energy efficiency, virtualization and cloud computing are viewed as tools to reduce data-center energy costs, and CIOs increasingly focus on ways to architect networks and data centers for maximum efficiency.
However, there’s a fundamental problem: As organizations become more reliant on the Internet, networked communication and cloud computing for mission-critical tasks, there’s near-zero tolerance to sacrifice performance for energy savings. Straddling the line between these two distinct worlds is daunting, and the growing complexity of IT is sometimes overwhelming. No CIO wants to take a hit—and possibly forfeit customers—because of energy efficient but subpar systems.
The upshot? Some executives are taking a close look at workload management software and other tools that optimize IT environments. A handful of vendors, such as Adaptive Computing and VMTurbo, have taken aim at high performance computing and cloud environments that are at the center of this next generation of green IT. These systems consolidate workloads, power down components when they aren’t required and offer processors optimized for energy efficiency, such as Intel’s Xeon chip.
In fact, the words “performance” and “energy efficiency” are no longer an oxymoron. At the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, the Beacon supercomputer is now one of the fastest and most powerful systems in the world but it is also the most energy efficient. It operates at a ratio of 2.5 gigaflops per watt. Meanwhile, the fastest supercomputer in the world, Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Titan (which uses both GPUs and traditional CPUs to achieve a rating above 10 petaflops), is about 10 times more powerful than its predecessor but draws only slightly more power.
Sustainability and green IT are not getting any easier. Many organizations have already snagged the low hanging kilowatts. However, for savvy CIOs, the next generation of savings is both a challenge and an opportunity. The bottom line is that there’s still green in green IT.
In a “Jetsons”-like future, refrigerators will know when we’re low on items such as cheese and beer and send a message to our GPS-equipped cell phones to remind us to pick up a wedge and a six-pack the next time we walk into our favorite grocery store — and thus prevent an extra 20-mile jaunt in our 2,000-pound car for a few items. Such a future is just around the corner, Kammen says.
“Smart hardware won’t solve our consumption addiction, but it will allow us to be much more efficient,” he says. “And movement of goods around is a big deal.”
Kammen and his colleagues are currently matching up energy and information technologies with a smart phone application that lets people take a virtual test drive of an electric vehicle such as the Nissan Leaf or Chevrolet Volt. The app sits on a GPS-equipped smart phone and rides along with drivers in their current car. Then, the users can go online, upload their data, and learn what their energy consumption would have been if they were driving an electric ride.
The energy costs of information technology (IT) are becoming increasingly visible for enterprises in a variety of industries. In the past, energy consumption was not seen as a priority issue in the data center and the split of responsibilities between IT and facilities organizations within the enterprise made it easy to skirt the issue of energy efficiency. However, according to a recent report from Pike Research, this dynamic is changing quickly, and the cleantech market intelligence firm forecasts that by 2015, global investment in energy efficient data center technologies will represent 28 percent of the $150 billion data center infrastructure market.
“The green data center has evolved in response to concern over energy use, but it is also connected to the broader transformation that data centers are undergoing,” says senior analyst Eric Woods. “Data centers of the future will be more energy efficient, more adaptable to new business needs and new technology opportunities, and virtualized to ensure optimal use of IT resources, space, and energy.”
As part of its analysis, Pike Research has identified seven key trends that are shaping the future of the green data center
IT managers are recognizing the energy and environmental costs of the continuing expansion of computing power, and are actively looking for ways to counteract them.
Over the next five years, data centers will move toward a totally virtualized environment that can provide computer services from both public and private cloud models.
The life cycles of power and cooling infrastructure will become more aligned with the IT assets it supports
More dynamic data centers will require more sophisticated management tools and a holistic view of the entire ecosystem
The relationship between the data center and the business it serves is changing. If the data center is to be part of a broader sustainability program, then its true cost must be more visible to the business.
Power usage effectiveness (PUE) ratings are a first step for new data center metrics, but PUE hides as much as it discloses and more work will be needed to define an acceptable measure for the productivity of the data center.
Modularization in data center design will be combined with more flexible approaches to provisioning. This is part of a broader shift to an industrialized view of the data center.
For greener Data center
IT departments today already have to struggle with a wide array of influences, pressures and goals. Now they have yet another thing to think about: The environment and how their technology decisions may impact our planet. But according to Logicalis, an international provider of integrated information and communications technology (ICT) solutions and services, green doesn’t have to be hard.
One place to start when looking toward a “greener” future for your organization is inside the data center itself. When cooling accounts for as much as 40 percent of the cost of powering a typical midsize data center (around 2,500 square feet), evaluating the data center’s airflow can be one of the best green decisions you’ve ever made – both in terms of the environment and the dollars you can save.
“Airflow is one of the easiest ways to impact your company’s bottom line by reducing power consumption,” says Bob Mobach, practice director, data center infrastructure, at Logicalis. “By making a few minor adjustments, you can save money, significantly reduce your electricity requirements, and create a better functioning, more comfortable data center environment as a whole.”
Because the world’s appetite for energy is outpacing production of renewable and non-renewable resources. Because the world is too densely populated to escape the effects of Greenhouse gas emissions, electronic waste disposal and toxic production methods.Because ICT is both part of the problem and a key to the solution.Because to thrive requires combining social responsibility, smart resource use and technological innovation.
Global carbon emissions attributable to ICT have been estimated at 2% to 2.5% of world totals – about the same as the airline industry – and as high as 5-6% of developed nation totals. McKinsey forecasts that the ICT sector’s carbon footprint will triple during the period from 2002 to 2020. For office buildings, ICT typically accounts for more than 20% of the energy used, and in some offices up to 70%. Although energy costs typically comprise less than 10% of an overall IT budget, in a few years they could rise to more than 50% according to a 2006 Gartner report. Many large organizations – such as Google – already claim that their annual energy costs exceed their server costs.
- Radical improvements in waste reduction and energy use rely on innovative applications of information technology:
- Telework can reduce not only automobile travel but overall energy use by reducing the amount of dedicated office space.
- Smart energy applications adjust energy consumption to real time need patterns and climate conditions, resulting in drastic reductions in waste.
- Virtualization can eliminate wasteful network equipment, reducing energy and floorspace.
In November, Citi opened a state-of-the-art data center in Texas. The new 305,000-square-foot facility features computer servers that are “virtualized” so each can do the work of 10 older models, software that alerts operators if systems aren’t running efficiently, and pollution controls on emissions and water usage. The new center is part of an effort to cut in half the 52 data centers Citi operates worldwide. Those centers-often kept as cold as an icebox so computers will run optimally-account for 24 percent of the company’s power usage.
Working with HP, Citi has saved over $1 million so far on power and cooling expenses by consolidating and “virtualizing” roughly 15 percent of its 42,740 servers worldwide. “We did an initial analysis and it pretty much paid for itself when we looked at what we were paying for some of the older data centers and what capacity we’d need,” says Jack Glass, Citi’s senior vice president for data-center planning.
Those efforts show where the future of I.T. lies: more energy-efficient hardware, software that helps manage power usage, zero-emissions facilities, and lower thermostats in data centers.
While the global economy has tanked, spending for green I.T. is soaring. Forrester Research, a technology market research firm, expects the $500 million spent on green I.T. services in 2008 will grow to $4.8 billion by 2013. While the economy has made it harder to go green simply for public relations value, executives are finding other reasons. Tech cycles are short and, as older hardware needs to be replaced, firms are consolidating and upgrading to greener models. Some global executives are also hedging their bets as they await U.S. regulations to cap carbon emissions; a new emission trading law goes into effect next year in the U.K.
But financial payback is even more compelling. The potential for quick savings from green I.T. has caught the attention of corporate giants and small businesses. Technology pioneers Microsoft and Google are building green data centers near cheap hydroelectric power sources in the Pacific Northwest. The world’s fifth-largest commercial airline, Continental, has saved more than $2 million through server virtualization. Highmark, a health insurer in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, with 4.5 million members, cut its electric bill by 10 percent last year, and halved its 400 servers, by building a more efficient data center with help from IBM. “That only amounted to about $52,000,” says Mark Wood, Highmark’s director of data-center infrastructure. “But in 2010, we’re expected to see rate increases of 20 to 40 percent from our utility.”
“Spending a little more for energy-efficient servers typically pays off pretty fast when you look at energy costs over three or four years,” says Christopher Mines, a Forrester analyst. “Whereas the hybrid car I bought is going to take 12 years to pay me back for that price premium.”
The recession has made it more difficult for companies to invest in multimillion-dollar data centers, but there are alternatives that make the economics work quicker. In data centers, server virtualization, changing the layout of devices, and using more heat-resistant hardware can cut the number of servers needed and reduce cooling costs. “These engagements are typically $20,000 to $50,000,” says Steve Sams, IBM’s resident green I.T. expert. “The average reduction in energy consumption is 23 percent, and they’re paid back in energy savings in two years or less.” In offices and branches, savings can be found by turning off computers across the enterprise when not in use, consolidating printers, trying to go paperless, and replacing PCs with “dumb” terminals that use 80 percent less power.
Tech manufacturers are heeding the call. In Microsoft’s Vista operating system, the company added 30 new power-management features, including an improved “sleep” mode that can save customers an estimated $50 a year in energy cost for every PC.
Computer servers are now being designed more heat-resistant so that data centers don’t have to be kept so cold that “you could store frozen dinners there,” according to Bill Kosik, HP’s director of energy and sustainability for critical facility services. HP and IBM, among other I.T. firms, now make a business of conducting “energy analyses” for clients and offer up “green” plans for I.T.
That’s what got Citi started. “Nobody can turn on a dime like the I.T. industry,” says Citi’s Glass. “When it comes to introducing more efficient hardware, it doesn’t take them as long as the auto industry to come out with a more energy-efficient design.”
Many businesses are looking for convenient and cost-effective ways to go green and reduce their impact on the planet. Virtualization is a popular solution that can have a positive impact on the environment and your bottom line.
According to the federal Department of Energy, data centers use as much as 3% of American electricity or about 120 billion kilowatt hours per year. This adds up to approximately $7.4 billion. With data creation increasing rapidly, it’s important to consider improved options for storage space and support.
“As servers guzzle up resources at business, you’d think that executives would look for a more efficient way. However, I find that many organizations are running servers at about 5% capacity. Through virtualization, we can help these companies get that rate up to 80% or higher,” said NetGain Technologies Director of Storage and Virtualization Bryan Jackson.
In addition to increased efficiency, Jackson noted that a virtualized environment also helps reduce server sprawl, cut maintenance costs and reduce the overall energy consumption of their facility.
In fact, virtualization can reduce data center energy costs by up to 80%, according to VMware, a global leader in virtualization and cloud infrastructure. And this type of consolidation can improve IT capacity through improving server utilization by running fewer, highly-utilized servers – freeing up power and space.
This is critical because big data is predicted to keep growing. The IDC recently forecasted that the big data service market will expand at a 31.7% compound annual growth rate – that’s about seven times faster than overall I.T. market, which is developing rapidly in its own right.
“I tell clients all the time that data is immortal. With all of our backups and archives, it never goes away. Think about it: when is the last time you really deleted something? Even when you think you’ve deleted something, you really didn’t; but that’s another story,” explained Jackson. “It’s critical that businesses explore their options when it comes to data storage. Virtualization could be a solution for your business and has some environmental benefits too.”
Bryan Jackson and NetGain Technologies have a bit of a green thumb when it comes to virtualization. They help companies reduce costs while benefiting the environment, helping to make Earth Day a little greener.
About NetGain Technologies:
NetGain Technologies is a leading provider in the design, procurement, implementation and management of high-performance IT solutions. With services ranked among the best in the world by MSPmentor and CRN Tech Elite, a multi-state regional footprint and almost three decades of experience; we’ve helped over 1,000 unique clients thrive by leveraging our best-in-class service and support programs. Our highly qualified and experienced professionals align our best-in-class support programs to meet clients’ needs for positive business outcome
10 Green Cloud Computing Hosts To Consider
With the IT industry now accounting for more than ten percent of global electricity consumption, and data centres alone accounting for almost two percent, the pressure is on businesses to use the greenest possible cloud computing providers. Here we look the green credentials of ten of the most environmentally friendly hosts available in no particular order:
This Norwegian hosting company is one of the largest in Scandinavia. It is also arguably the most environmentally friendly thanks to its use of the Green Mountain Data Centre. The data centre is the self-styled greenest data centre in the world, using hydropower to produce the required electricity and icy fjord water to cool the servers.
Headquartered in Iceland, GreenQloud offers cloud computing services from data centres that are powered by 100 percent renewable energy sources – specifically hydropower and geothermal energy. Iceland’s geographic location also aids the company’s green credentials, with a year-round cold climate offering a natural coolant, and its mid-Atlantic position removing the need for multiple data mirrors. After being founded in 2010 the company has expanded to offer server hosting, online storage, backup, and cloud computing.
Google’s data centres already use fifty percent less energy than a typical data centre by reducing their overhead energy (cooling, power conversion, etc.) usage to just twelve percent. Not only has the company made their own processes environmentally friendly, they also share information and best practices in a bid to improve the entire IT industry.
Based out of Zurich in Switzerland, CloudSigma is plugged into one of the greenest electricity grids in the world – over 95 percent of Swiss energy is generated from nuclear and renewable sources. The company only uses certified carbon neutral cloud servers and has been recognised by Greenpeace for its dedication to environmental responsibility within the IT industry.
This Irish company has been pushing the green agenda since their founding in 2009. With seven data centres around the world they primarily offer hosting solutions to the European and North American markets. Their virtual servers consume less than 5 per cent of the power of a physical server, meaning just one Dediserve server rack is currently the same as 25 conventional server racks.
Windows Azure is the Microsoft-powered cloud service. The company has been recognized as the second-largest green power purchaser on the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership list, and clients who use their data centres will see a 30 percent drop in their carbon footprint.
7. Apple iCloud
Perfect for individuals and small businesses, Apple’s iCloud uses some of the greenest data centres on the planet. The company uses 100 percent renewable energy across all its data locations, plus 75 percent at its corporate facilities. Its new North Carolina data centre is powered by a huge solar panel farm and even occasionally becomes a net power producer for a local utility company.
IBM Smartcloud offers a fully managed, highly secure IaaS cloud which is optimized for critical enterprise workloads. In 2012 27 IBM data centres were awarded ‘Participants in Data Centre Efficiency’ by the European Commission – the largest portfolio of data centres from a single company to receive the recognition.
The US-based content delivery network is one of the greenest companies in its sector. For more than ten years Akamai have taken a leading role in minimizing the environmental impact of IT systems. With several initiatives in place that are continually improving efficiency, the company now boast a grade ‘A’ for Energy Transparency from Greenpeace.
Rackspace is one of the leading names in cloud hosting, yet they also have an excellent sustainability program. In 2014 their USA-based operations were named as ‘Green Power Partners’ by the Environmental Protection Agency for the second consecutive year, while their UK data centres and offices run on 100 percent renewable energy.