“The first time the CEO walked in, he wondered
where everything was,” says Anuraag Bhargava, vice
president and CIO.
In addition to the aggressive use of virtualization,
Electro-Motive has gone after inefficiency in data storage
by implementing so-called “thin provisioning,” a method
of keeping only data that’s frequently accessed on fast tier-one storage devices that consume the most power. The
company has deployed three tiers of storage, moving lesser-used data to cheaper storage devices that use less energy.
Electro-Motive’s third-tier storage consists of high-density
disk drives that consume only one-third the power of its
The company has also implemented data deduplication,
a technique that reduces the amount of data to be stored by
eliminating duplicate instances of data. Deduplication has
reduced storage needs by 20 percent to 30 percent, according to Bhargava.
In Honolulu, Bruce has winnowed some 200 Wintel
servers down to about 160 on the way to a goal of 40 servers with VMware virtualization software. He’s also virtualizing an IBM pSeries server. Thanks to the capacity that has
been freed up, Bruce has been able
to add some new applications. Another big saver was a move to voice
over IP (VOIP) telecommunications,
which has enabled the city to eliminate 14 different PBX systems, cutting his budget by $250,000.
One of the lowest-hanging fruits
in the quest for better energy utilization is to purchase new equipment.
The newer the gear, the more energy
efficient it probably is. Following this
tack, Bruce replaced three old main-frames with two new Energy Star-compliant IBM z9 models.
TURN OUT THE LIGHTS; TURN UP THE HEAT
Once equipment usage has been optimized, it’s time to
bring the data center itself under control. Data center air
conditioners are a major drain on electrical power, but several things can be done to deal with that problem.
The first is simply to turn up the temperature a few
degrees. Forrester Research analyst Douglas Washburn reports that when an IT manager at KPMG raised data center
temperature from 69 degrees Fahrenheit to 74 F, electrical
power usage declined by 12. 7 percent. Changing the relative humidity can also yield benefits. The same IT manager
found that reducing the relative humidity from 50 percent
to 40 percent saved 15 percent in energy usage.
Whatever the temperature, good data center design calls
for a layout of alternating hot and cool aisles. Once the
aisles are set up in this way, the coolest air will flow over the
hottest elements. Warmed air will be pulled directly off the
IT equipment and into the exhaust ducts so that it cannot
mix with the cooled air.
IDC’s Scaramella points out that it’s important to install blanking panels where there are no servers in a rack
in order to ensure that cool air does not pass through a
rack without coming into contact with hot equipment.
And it’s important, he says, to use power-management
tools to understand how much power a data center’s
equipment—whether servers and storage or the power
units themselves—is drawing. “A lot of people don’t have
a good grasp of what’s going on in the data center,” the
A well-designed cooling architecture can yield savings in costly
CRAC (computer room air conditioning) units. Initially, Electro-Motive’s data center was poorly designed to handle an influx of blade
servers, but by rearchitecting the air
flow and turning up the temperature
2.5 degrees, the company was able
to operate with one less CRAC unit,
Some data centers look beyond
their own walls for cooling sources. For example, at an IBM data center in Poughkeepsie,
N.Y., cold water from the nearby Hudson River is tapped
in the winter as a source of chilled water for the data center cooling systems, according to Peter McCaffrey, director
of marketing, Dynamic Infrastructure in IBM Systems and
Although the data center is a logical focal point of IT
energy efficiency, there is plenty of computing gear outside the data center. In many cases, the PCs, printers and
wiring closets throughout an enterprise consume more
power than the data center itself. After cleaning up its data
center operations in 2008, Sprint focused on IT equipment
beyond the data center, and the company is currently on
track to save $20 million in 2009, according to Felton.
To manage power consumption on Honolulu’s desktop and laptop computers, Bruce is deploying Verdiem’s
Surveyor software, which can power off PCs and their
monitors at night, as well as during the day when they
are not in use. He estimates that deploying Surveyor will
enable him to cut office computer
energy use by 30 percent.
As IT pros get their energy act
together, it may pay to keep an eye
on economic stimulus funds targeted
by the U. S. Department of Energy to
encourage greener energy practices.
Sprint, for example, is receiving a
stimulus grant to deploy hydrogen
fuel cells for use as a backup power
supply. And Power Loft, a builder
and operator of advanced, energy-efficient data centers, is receiving a
stimulus grant to deploy solar panels
at one of its facilities. (See “A Clean
Slate for Data Center Design” on the previous page.)
Time will tell whether subsidized moves to alternative power sources will change data center practices in the
long run. Until then, there’s plenty you can do to eliminate
wasted energy: Start by taking a hard look at every aspect of
your IT operations, from applications to storage devices—
as well as the building that’s housing all of it.
Gordon Bruce, CIO,
city and county of Honolulu
anuraag Bhargava, vice president
and CIO, electro-Motive Diesel
John Felton, CIO, Sprint