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Virtualization Drives the Green IT Bus

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted Jun 3, 2009


Not so long ago when green computing was considered hype. Or vaporware. Or something in between. But now, whether you attribute it to climate change, increased energy costs or looming cap and trade legislation, green computing is coming. Even those that scoff at very notion of "green" as a feel-good movement will find it unavoidable, as OEMs are taking carbon emissions and power and cooling into account with new and future product releases.

Virtually Speaking: Green IT is gaining ground, and virtualization is a popular way for enterprises to get there.

It is also being positioned as a way to save money. Think about it, if you consume less power, you're paying less for power, so it's a win all around. A recent survey, commissioned by Symantec and performed by Applied Research confirms this. It found Green IT is no longer the wish list item, it was 12 months ago, Jose Iglesias, vice president of Global Solutions at Symantec told ServerWatch.

Of the 1,052 worldwide respondents (only about one-third of which were in the United States), 97 percent are discussing their green IT strategies, while 45 percent have already implemented one.

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While "doing the right thing," as Iglesias puts it, does play a role, the more tangible drivers are reducing electricity consumption (90 percent), reducing cooling costs (87 percent) and a directive from corporate (86 percent). Interestingly, legislation is not a primary motivator. Iglesias attributes that to the fact that current laws are not punitive; however, he said, "my feeling is that will change, over the next 12 to 24 months."

Virtualization is one of the more popular mechanisms employed to achieve this. In 93 percent of enterprises, virtualization is a means to a green end. Interestingly, the other popular mechanisms are complementary to virtualization: replacing old equipment with newer, more efficient — and inherently virtualization friendly — hardware (96 percent), server consolidation, which is traditionally a key virtualization driver in and of itself(94 percent), and monitoring power consumption (94 percent).

Interestingly, 57 percent of respondents viewed SaaS or cloud initiatives as "green," but Iglesias is quick to point out that although these endeavors reduce the enterprise's carbon footprint, from a meta perspective, all it's really doing is shifting the consumption.

Enterprises undergoing a hardware refresh have a many virtualization friendly options from which to choose. As virtualization matures, however, it's becoming increasingly clearer that it is a means to an end, and thus the message that accompanies it has shifted.

Take HP's latest technology refresh, for example. Deliberately timed to coincide with this Friday's World Environment day, on Tuesday, the OEM added 11 new servers to its ProLiant server portfolio in blade, rack and tower form factors. The servers were designed with energy savings and performance in mind, and deliver the "maximum amount of computing power for the minimal amount of energy usage," Paul Gottsegen, vice president of integrated marketing, HP’s Enterprise Storage and Servers, told ServerWatch.

They are, not coincidentally, well-suited for virtualization.

Seven of the new HP ProLiant servers are built around the AMD's 6-core Opteron processor, Istanbul. The rack offerings double the density of traditional rack servers. The result is more compute power and reduced energy.

A Nehalem-based tower server was also released for customers who want to start with a single processor yet be able to upgrade easily as they grow, rather than starting with a 2-way off the bat. A second processor and more memory can be added later via a board. Gottsegen said, "The tower server is designed to enable customers to buy capacity as needed and defer capital expenditures by extending processing power and memory capacity in the server as the business grows."

It will be interesting to see whether the other OEMs also treat virtualization not as the main attraction, but as the means to get there, which in the end is its primary value.

Amy Newman is the managing editor of ServerWatch. She has been covering virtualization space since 2001, and is coauthoring a book about virtualization that is scheduled for publication in October 2009.

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