Where next after server virtualisation?

Jeff Spencer of Bull Information Systems maintains that virtualisation is just the start of a journey to wider ICT energy saving initiativesWith energy costs spiralling and action needed to protect the environment, controlling the electricity consumption of the data centre is becoming an essential challenge for all kinds of businesses and their IT Departments. To address this, many IT Managers have embarked upon rationalising UNIX and commodity x86 servers through virtualisation.         

Despite the greater power-per-watt ratios of modern processors and increased efficiency of shared virtual machines, the total energy demand for storage and servers is still rising.
The energy bill for IT infrastructures and their associated cooling equipment can easily represent over a quarter of the entire operating cost of a data centre.
The EU Code of Conduct on Data Centres’ Energy Efficiency published October 2008 states: “Many data centres operators are simply not aware of the financial, environmental and infrastructure benefits to be gained from improving the efficiency of their facilities. Even awareness does not necessarily lead to good decision making, simply because there is no framework in place for operators to aspire to. Making data centres more energy efficient is a multidimensional challenge that requires a concerted effort to optimise power distribution, cooling infrastructure, IT equipment and IT output.”

Energy auditing services
This is why Bull and Schneider Electric recently formed a partnership, within Bull’s Bio Data Center™ programme, to offer comprehensive energy auditing services. In the UK many clients will recognise Schneider Electric’s brands of APC, MGE and TAC. These audit services will provide organisations with the indicators needed to define high-performance, eco-friendly and sustainable IT such as:

  • Evaluation of energy efficiency, and confirming opportunities where savings can be made
  • Identification of potential economies of scale once the scope has been established
  • Setting out recommendations that are consistent with the data centre's energy profile

As a preliminary activity, audits can determine not only a prioritised plan for action, based on likely savings, but also identify how optimisation can be aligned with current business plans and transformation programmes.
Recent projects by the partners have delivered significant power and cost reductions for clients including. For example, Barnsley MBC, operating in partnership with Bull TCL, adopted VMware virtualisation to deliver economies of scale in a data centre running out of space. Over 90 unreliable physical servers were replaced by five high availability servers. This virtualisation project delivered around 73 per cent savings in power costs. The reduction and hardware expenditure, software and administration costs delivered additional savings for the client. The reduction in server footprint created space for additional capacity to be deployed in the data centre, enabling the roll out of new applications with improved service levels to the business.
Another projected involved a London based retailer with 500 retail units. A one-day site visit to conduct an energy survey and identify energy-saving opportunities was followed up by implementation of the recommended strategies and created a report outlining payback. For £131,000 investment annual savings of £750,000 will be made and plant life expectancy increased through reduced loading.

Storage savings
Attention should not be confined to just servers; to achieve storage related savings it is even more important to embark on a planned set of energy saving actions encompassing capacity planning, consolidation, virtualisation and operational policies. Advances in real-time storage and tape library virtualisation together with de-duplication can improve both business data availability and space and power reductions.
Outside of the data centre, assessment and audit of power consumption at the desktop is an equally important step towards achieving cuts in the organisation’s IT related electricity bill.
In some organisations, office PC and printer energy costs can be greater than the central servers. Reduction in these areas can be achieved in a number of ways. For example, Bull TCL, with the active involvement of Barnsley MBC have achieved savings by replacing PCs with virtual desktops using VMware and Citrix technologies. Elsewhere energy savings have been achieved through deployment of a print management solution in support of flexible working practices within a new ‘sustainable’ council HQ building.
Bull TCL is now planning for further deployment and more virtual desktops and power management. “We are excited about the possibility of making Barnsley a show case for the adoption of virtual desktop infrastructure and we have the support from the management of BMBC in moving that way. We are confident that as well as delivering power savings these technologies will provide benefits for the Authority’s operation” stated Bull TCL General Manager, Peter Bush.
To achieve quick wins and optimal return on investment, Bull recommends a lifecycle of Green IT change initiatives: starting with audits and then evaluating which technology, facility or policy initiatives can contribute the most to power savings.

For more information
If you would like to find out more about Bull’s services and the partnership with Schneider Electric please contact information@bull.co.uk or visit Bull’s website at www.bull.com/infrastructure/