Storage Users See Green in ‘Green’ IT

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ORLANDO, Fla. — There are more than a few factors pushing enterprises to go “green” these days, such as carbon footprints and power and cooling costs.

But the biggest imperative, according to experts attending this week’s Storage Networking World conference, is money — specifically, saving bucks with common sense and emerging technologies that make effective use of resources.

Nearly every speaker during a “green” session made note that ‘green’ is not new by any means. What may be new for many tech teams is that they’re very likely doing ‘green IT’ already in some form or another.

The challenge for IT is to take the lead on green business, incorporating both simple and technical best practices for cutting power and cooling costs and attaining efficiency in managing what’s becoming a sprawling storage environment.

If done right, the rewards can be compelling, with one expert noting that a company could gain 50 percent in cost reductions. Such achievement would also boost IT’s stature within the corporate leadership realm.

“It’s all about energy, power and pooling resources,” SW Worth, senior standards program manager at Microsoft, told his session audience. It’s not about focusing on the environmental aspect of green IT, but the financial and operational aspects, he said.

While storage gurus highlighted how specific tools, such as virtualization, can help drive efficiency and save storage costs, they also stressed that going ‘green’ means working with business leaders outside of the IT realm.

“Storage guys have to talk with the data guys and the guy who pays the storage bill and the guy who runs the facilities for the company. Green isn’t just about power and cooling,” Worth said.

“IT must get involved with facilities. They must also start talking with their power providers and investigate discounts,” he added.

One industry analyst said one best practice is to not view ‘green IT’ as an environmental issue but as a cost factor in hardware and power and cooling costs.

“Whether it’s storage or some other technology mandate, it’s all about doing more with less,” John Sloan, senior research analyst of Info-tech Research Group, said in an interview.

Right now about 47 percent of enterprises that have some form of green budgeting are doing server consolidation and virtualization, according to Info-tech. About 38 percent of enterprises with no green budget are still doing consolidation and virtualization. Overall, 40 percent are doing consolidation regardless of strategic orientation toward green spending, according to the firm.

Sloan noted that some current practices need changing to make green IT a reality. For example, distributed processing infrastructures — where every application is provisioned with its own physical server with DAS — are grossly inefficient.

Optimizing storage can bring savings in capital expenses as well as power consumption, and just consolidation can bring benefits, said Sloan. Info-Tech research indicates that server consolidation/virtualization projects can lead to reduction in one-time and ongoing hardware acquisition costs of 45 percent to 70 percent. Fewer processors and fewer spinning hard drives mean less electricity is consumed, said Sloan.

Just analyzing physical space use can boost efficiency, since a well-organized storage footprint means less space requires cooling. More than half of virtualization implementers surveyed by Info-Tech said that shrinking the footprint was a driving force behind virtualization adoption.

“It is all about doing more with less. Green is good for business,” Sloan said.

Marriott Goes Green

Marriott International also discussed its ‘green’ efforts at the conference.

“There’s a statistic that about 29 percent of technology professionals believe that ‘green IT’ is just hype,” Ed Goldman, vice president of technology strategy for Marriott, told his standing-room-only audience. “I hope to lessen that number by sharing what we’ve been doing in the data center and throughout our computing environments.”

The $13 billion company runs a “not for profit” IT organization, which charges user groups for everything from PCs to bandwidth in a “very cost-conscious” approach, Goldman explained.

With a motto of “consolidate, innovate, automate,” and a “do more with less” corporate culture, it’s managed to retain a flat IT budget for several years while increasing IT services needed for increasing properties and personnel.

“When you can do ‘green IT’ on the grand scale like we operate, you can achieve substantial savings,” said Goldman, noting that just swapping out old desktops for new thin clients and energy-efficient hardware in data centers and network ops can be financially rewarding for a company.

Marriott replaced 3,000 PC with thin clients, “turned the screws up” and virtualized about 40 percent of its server farms and 75 percent of its storage area networks (SANs). That virtualization effort saved 33 percent in future server costs, the IT leader said.

In the data center, Marriott plugged in more efficient units to reduce cooling costs, as well as new flooring that directs airflow for maximum temperature efficiency.

“Our datacenter is 20 years old and just a few years ago had 15-year-old boxers. We had to do more than replace them; we had to do a lot of work in the hot and cool aisles,” he told the crowd.

His team took down antiquated cooling towers on the data center building roof and replaced them with cheaper and more energy-efficient units.

In the computing environment, the Marriott rolled out a standard desktop and laptop configuration to take advantage of built-in power options that allow IT to power down PCs when not in use. It replaced 10,000 laptops with new Energy Star–compliant models and will continue that effort as part of the company’s three-year device rollout program.

Old equipment, from PCs to mobile phones, is outsourced for proper and cost-effective recycling and disposal.

Marriott supports employee telecommuting, and in response IT has put one-third of applications online. In addition, it uses a VPN network for the remaining software tools. It’s plugged in softphones in calling centers.

“Where we’re going is focused on saving both kinds of ‘green.’ We’re continuing to move more applications into the online secured environment to save on data center costs. Right now 80 percent of our data center is virtualized,” he said.

The goal, according to Goldman, is a “gridlike” computing environment for users, and to make that happen he plans on using service-oriented architecture technology to include third-party applications to which users also need access. He’s also working on reducing platforms from six down to three for standardization efficiencies.

“That grid capability will save money and provide greater flexibility,” he added, noting that one of Marriott’s biggest ‘green IT’ efforts is taking place underground.

His team is working with a third-party provider to locate a recovery and development data center underground in a Pennsylvania cave. The ambient temperate of 50 to 60 degrees is perfect for heating and cooling purposes, and using remote online systems there is little labor or energy requirements, he explained.

While he couldn’t provide a total ‘green IT’ savings, Goldman said the green initiatives have cut disk drive costs by 20 percent, and at least 30 to 35 percent in the computing environment.

“The best indicator is that we’ve kept our budget flat while delivering 20 percent more capability in the past few years,” he said, noting there’s still a lot more work to be done.

“Our data-archiving strategy is very manual, and we’re looking for tools that will help consolidate and automate that aspect. Going green for us means saving money.”

Article courtesy of

Judy Mottl
Judy Mottl
Judy Mottl is an experienced technology journalist who has served as a senior editor, reporter, writer, and blogger for InformationWeek, Investors Business Daily, CNET, and Information Security Magazine, as well as other media outlets.

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