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March 2010 | Volume 13 / Number 3
The Green Issue

Virtualization Sees Green, but More Energy Savings Could Be Realized

By: Paula Bernier

Virtualization allows multiple applications to run on a single server. Because each application no longer needs its own server, virtualization significantly decreases the amount of hardware required.

As Manjula Talreja, vice president and global lead for the Cisco/EMC (News - Alert)/VMware Business

Strategic Partner Organization notes, the fewer servers you need, the less energy is consumed, both in terms of the servers themselves and in terms of the extra gear needed to cool them.

“It results in pretty significant cost of ownership for the customer,” Talreja adds.

Indeed, Lori MacVittie, technical marketing manager at data center application delivery networking firm F5 Networks (News - Alert), estimates that virtualization frequently enables businesses to eliminate the need for between five and 10 pieces of hardware.

“In most non-virtualized enterprise data center environments, compute resources (servers) are under utilized, with most of them operating at 5 to 15 percent of their capacity,” adds Rahul Singh, principal at Pace Harmon (News - Alert), a third-party outsourcing advisory and technology consulting firm. “This is, in large part, due to applications having dedicated server and storage hardware, thus requiring more power, cooling, network and real estate. In my experience, virtualization of enterprise data center environments significantly improves server utilization (in some cases by as high as 85 percent). The increased utilization can significantly reduce the power, cooling, network infrastructure, storage infrastructure and real estate requirements — resulting in significant decreases in energy consumption (50 to 70 percent) and the carbon footprint of enterprise data centers.”

That said, there’s a clear energy savings and eco-friendly angle built in to the virtualization story.


Yet virtualization could further lower power consumption and, as a result, turn up more green in terms of opex savings and environmental benefits.

In one effort that could help businesses move in that direction, Panduit Corp. late last year announced it is partnering with IBM (News - Alert) to implement Portable Modular Data Center designs that harness the power of data center virtualization and minimize energy use. Panduit’s UPI approach maps the physical infrastructure to the logical network, enabling customers to conserve data center real estate, manage heat loads, and optimize power and cooling efficiencies.

“We look forward to partnering with IBM to help companies optimize power, cooling, and space within the data center environment,” says Vineeth Ram, Panduit’s vice president of global strategic marketing. “Panduit provides an optimized physical infrastructure in support of IBM’s family of data center solutions such as PMDC.”

Shehzad Merchant, senior director of data center strategy at Extreme Networks (News - Alert) Inc., says managing power more efficiently as part of a virtualization strategy can yield 30 to 40 percent in energy savings. In fact, he says, some of Extreme’s customers have a “follow-the-moon” model in which they continually move their processing capabilities across the globe, so they’re always operating out of a data center in a geography in which it’s night, so they get the lowest-cost power.

Whatever model they use, once customers are intelligently controlling and shifting processing power to make the best use of resources and energy consumption, why stop at the server? Merchant say Extreme has developed a capability to enable customers to write scripts so that during evening hours, for example, as they shut down some servers, they also can put into hibernation blades on Extreme switches.

But while virtualization presents a strong opportunity for energy savings and environmental friendliness, it doesn’t always come to fruition unless server utilization rates are improved through the effort, says Pace Harmon’s Singh.

“To explain, virtualization provides enabling technology for improving server utilization, but an enterprise must diligently plan for the implementation — including leveraging resources with virtualization implementation expertise — in order to see significant increases in server utilization that would result in energy savings,” he says.

Alan Murphy, technical marketing manager at F5 Networks, says every virtualization vendor is using the green marketing. But he adds that there’s not a lot of tangible product to optimize green deployments.

“What I mean by that is VMware has got a lot of products that solely focus on power management, and what they can do is they can detect when a virtual machine is not being used … and they can power down that virtual machine so it uses less power resources,” he says. “On the surface that’s great; it sounds like that’s exactly what people want to do. But what we’re seeing from our customers [is] there’s still a good bit of resistance to allow an automated system to turn up and turn down complete servers. If one of those malfunctions, then you could lose an entire Web farm.”

Murphy says F5 has responded to that concern by offering a solution that can automatically reroute traffic to alternate, working servers “if a power management service freaks out and shuts down a bunch of servers.”

Still, Murphy adds, “we’re not seeing a lot of customers that are adopting that technology yet, and we’re not seeing a huge push from VMware and Microsoft (News - Alert) and Citrix and those vendors to make that a top-line priority. It’s just there if somebody wants to use it and play with it today.”

That’s not usual, of course. Customers need some time to get comfortable with need technologies so they build a sense of trust relative to their reliability. As Murphy points out, a similar scenario played out with virtualization adoption, particularly for mission-critical and production applications.

“Two or three years ago we had so many customers that came to us and said ‘Yeah, we play with virtual platforms, but we only do it in testing.…’ And today that’s completely different,” he says. “We did a survey seven or eight months ago, and off the top of my head I think the number was 67 percent of our customers said they ran mission-critical apps on virtual platforms.” IT

 

For More Resources on Green Data Centers and Virtualization Visit:

Extreme’s Green IT site Extreme’s Green IT site – (www.extremenetworks.com/solutions/datacenter_green_it.aspx)

Green Data Center News – (www.greendatacenternews.org)

The Green Grid – (www.thegreengrid.org)

Smart Data Centers – (http://smart-data-centers.tmcnet.com)

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