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Green Technology Can Improve Data Center Performance

Greg Schulz

There is no such thing as a data recession as the reliance upon information processing continues to grow in every economic climate. This means the need for more processing (servers), storage and network bandwidth! There is also a green gap of disconnect between general industry messaging and perception of what Green IT is about versus common core IT data center issues, challenges and opportunities.

For example, when I regularly talk with IT professionals from various sized, different focused industries across the globe in diverse geographies and ask them about having to go green, the response is in the 7 to 15% range (these are changing) with most believing that Green is only about carbon footprint.

On the other hand, when I ask them if they have power, cooling, floor space or other footprint constraints including frozen or reduced budgets, recycling along with ewaste disposition or RoHS (Removal of Hazardous Substances) requirements, not to mention sustaining business growth without negatively impacting quality of service or customer experience, the response jumps up to 65 to 75% (these are changing) if not higher.

Short of calling it Green 2.0, there is resurgence and more importantly a growing awareness of the many facets of Green IT and relationship to economic as well as business sustainability. The net result should be a narrowing if not closing of the Green Gap with business sustainability, economic as well as environmental positive byproduct benefits.

Background and Issues

Organizations are faced with the constant demand to process, move and store more data, including multiple copies of the same or similar data, for longer periods of time while maintain Quality of Service levels. Meanwhile fixed or shrinking budgets mean that IT departments have to store and protect more data in a denser, safer and more cost effective manner without reducing the quality of service they provide to their customers. The result is an expanding information processing and datacenter technology footprint resulting in increased IT expenses to support and sustain given levels of application Quality of Service (QoS) delivery (See Figure 1).

Figure 1. IT Resources, QoS, and Cost: A Balancing Act to Support Business Growth
(Source: StorageIO)

Thus the need to shift from an avoidance model to that of one of efficiency and productivity where resources are used more effectively in terms of boosting productivity instead of simply consolidating to avoid costs.

From Avoidance to Productivity and Efficiency

Figure 2 shows four basic approaches (in addition to doing nothing) to energy efficiency. One approach is to avoid energy usage, similar to following a rationing model, but this approach will affect the amount of work that can be accomplished. Another approach is to do more work using the same amount of energy, boosting energy efficiency, or do same amount of work (or storage data) however with less energy.

Figure 2. Shifting from Energy Avoidance to Productivity and Effectiveness
(Source: The Green and Virtual Data Center by Greg Schulz and published by CRC Press.)

By shifting from an avoidance model where cost cutting or containment are the near-term tactical focus to an efficiency and productivity model via optimization, net unit costs should be lowered while overall service experience increase in a positive manner.

The net result is that environmental or perceived Green issues are addressed and self-funded via the investment in Green IT technology that boosts productivity (e.g. closing or narrowing the Green Gap).

What Does This All Mean?

There are real things that can be done today that can be effective toward achieving a balance of performance, availability, capacity, and energy effectiveness to meet particular application and service needs.

Sustaining for economic and ecological purposes can be achieved by balancing performance, availability, capacity, and energy to applicable application service level and physical floor space constraints along with intelligent power management. Energy economics should be considered as much a strategic resource part of IT data centers as are servers, storage, networks, software, and personnel.

The energy efficiency gap is the difference between the amount of work accomplished or information stored in a given footprint and the energy consumed. In other words, the bigger the energy efficiency gap, the better, as seen in the fourth scenario, doing more work or storing more information in a smaller footprint using less energy.

Watch for new metrics looking at productivity and activity for servers, storage and networks ranging from MHz or GHz per watt, transactions or IOPS per watt, bandwidth, frames or packets processed per watt or capacity stored per watt in a given footprint. One of the confusing metrics is Gbytes or Tbytes per watt in that it can mean storage capacity or bandwidth. Thus it is important to understand the context of the metric and how it is being applied. Likewise watch for metrics that reflect energy usage for active along with in-active including idle or dormant storage common with archives, backup or fixed content data.

What this all means is that work continues on developing usable and relevant metrics and measurement not only for macro energy usage, also, to gauge the effectiveness of delivering IT services. The business value proposition of driving efficiency and optimization including increased productivity along with storing more information in a given footprint is to support density and business sustainability.


There are many different aspects of Green IT along with several myths or misperceptions not to mention missed opportunities. Green initiatives need to be seen in a different light, as business enables as opposed to ecological cost centers.

Learn more about how green IT can save money; more enable you to do more with available budgets and resources while sustaining business growth not to mention boosting productivity which are the essence of efficiency vs. avoidance.

By taking action to become more efficient and effective including boosting performance and productivity while reducing waste or rework, the net benefit is both economic (business top and bottom line) as well as positive to the environment, that is the essence of Green IT. ♦

Read more IT Performance Improvement

Related Book

The Green and Virtual Data Center

Greg Schulz

This book presents virtually all critical IT technologies and techniques to discuss the interdependencies that need to be supported to enable a dynamic, energy-efficient, economical, and environmentally-friendly green IT data center.

About the Author

Greg Schulz is founder of the Server and StorageIO group (StorageIO), an independent IT industry advisory consultancy firm. He is the author of the books The Green and Virtual Data Center and Resilient Storage Networks. He is a popular blogger and also a fixture on Twitter.