From automobiles to cleaning products and everything in between, products are being sold based on their green characteristics. It’s to the point where business-to-business purchasers and consumers may no longer believe that these products are truly green and it’s just marketing hype.
In the IT space, green means improved energy efficiency with minimal environmental impact. Greening one’s data center is a cost-saver in the long run, as older products are replaced with more energy-efficient models, and budget issues are always of primary concern to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). With the high cost of electricity and oil, reducing energy use becomes even more important. SMBs have the same green requirements as larger businesses, but generally with lower budgets.
Environment impacted by data center growth
The Green IT movement is being driven by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which was mandated by Congress in December 2006 to conduct a study of the rapid growth and energy consumption of data centers. The EPA defines data centers as “facilities that contain IT equipment (computing, networking and data storage equipment), as well as power and cooling infrastructure.” The report continues, “A data center contains primarily electronic equipment used for data processing (servers), data storage (storage equipment) and communications (network equipment).”
The June 2007 report explained that the “U.S. data center industry’s growth has been stimulated by the increased use of electronic transactions such as online banking and electronic trading, the growing use of Internet communication and entertainment, the shift to electronic medical records for healthcare, the growth in global commerce and services, the adoption of satellite navigation and electronic shipment tracking in transportation, and the use of the Internet to publish government information.” The downside to this growth includes increased energy costs for businesses, strain on the power grid, increased greenhouse gases and increased capital costs for datacenter construction and expansion.
Energy consumption and the data center
The study also notes that data centers in themselves have a certain degree of environmental friendliness because they improve energy efficiency throughout the economy (by contributing to telecommuting, e-commerce and similar industries and applications that reduce transportation and building energy use). For example, instead of driving from store to store, consumers will let their fingers do the walking across their computer keyboards. Direct energy consumption in the data center, however, is significant and SMBs need to pursue greater energy efficiency along with performance.
Energy costs are the second largest expense in a data center, behind only labor costs. The EPA data shows that data centers use 1.5 percent of all electricity consumption in the United States, which equated to 61 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) and $4.5 billion in 2006. It also equals the energy required to keep all the televisions running in the country. Moreover, data centers have a larger carbon footprint than airplanes.
The electrical consumption figure has doubled since 2000 and emissions are extremely high. In 2000, the U.S. Energy Information Administration and the EPA’s ENERGY STAR program estimated data center electricity cost at $1.37 billion. They forecast that it will grow to $7.68 billion by 2010, which may range from 15 to 40 times the annual energy costs of a typical office-with an average facility consuming anywhere from 1 to 20 megawatts of power. Half of all data centers have insufficient power and cooling capacity and require renovation.
Seven recommendations for a green data center
Seven recommendations for a green data center
The EPA has made recommendations for a green data center, which include setting metrics and tools for measuring energy performance, increased awareness of best practices within the data center and coordination among public, private and utility companies. Seven steps to having a greener data center to support Web and application infrastructure include:
Step #1: Know your current energy use in order to know the starting point.
Step #2: Review metrics regularly to track progress, and make adjustments as needed.
Step #3: Rather than purchasing too many servers, optimize the use of servers.
Step #4: Remember that performance goes hand-in-hand with power efficiency.
Step #5: Install network equipment that streamlines the management and efficiency of Web and application infrastructure.
Step #6: Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) acceleration/download helps servers operate more efficiently, which means the data center uses less power.
Step #7: Deploy low-energy consumption network devices, which lower energy bills and reduce cooling requirements.
Determining and monitoring energy usage
Data centers are notorious for their power consumption. Each piece of equipment, including servers, uses energy along with air conditioning-which, for every watt used by the servers, the climate control system uses two watts. With a large data center, power consumption quickly adds up.
So, the first step toward having a green data center is determining energy usage and monitoring for peak usage and low-energy demand cycles. Normal power consumption in a data center includes powering the servers, plus additional “wasted” power that is usually dissipated as heat and/or light. Low power consumption helps to cut out the wasted, unused power.
In general, data center employees beyond the facilities manager generally have not been concerned with energy costs, but this needs to be changed. As part of the plan to reduce consumption, SMBs must track before-and-after measurements and budget/performance change. SMBs must implement a monitoring device before reducing power consumption in the data center. This way, they can more effectively track the results of how much of their budget is being saved. This data then needs to be shared with appropriate staff, reviewed regularly and revised as needed.
Improving performance and availability
Improving performance and availability
While these steps are important for cost savings and environmental reasons, data center operators are more focused on performance and availability of networks, applications and equipment than on energy efficiency. Improving network efficiency serves the twofold purpose of reducing costs and improving performance with the benefit of being green.
SMBs often mistakenly purchase too many servers and use them at very low capacity in order to have redundancy. A better way to maximize the efficiency of servers is to optimize them, because whether they are working at full capacity or only 10 percent capacity, they still use energy. While power reduction is important to cost savings and being environmentally conscious, performance is also a vital part of the equation.
Minimizing costs while maximizing performance
For an SMB, the decision about whether to maximize performance or lower cost has become easier in recent years; performance does not have to suffer in order to minimize costs. In order for an SMB to be successful in e-commerce, 32 percent of SMBs sell goods online. These businesses need to handle the traffic connecting customers and suppliers. SMBs in a wide range of vertical markets also use intranets to share information among employees and use extranets to link to their suppliers.
As the information accessed and shared becomes more complex and bandwidth-consuming, it becomes more important that network and application infrastructure performance be optimized. Site availability is key to having a successful e-commerce site. Site availability includes having ample bandwidth, memory, storage, redundancy, failover, load balancing and persistence.
Optimizing server efficiency
Deploying an Application Delivery Controller (ADC) has become a strategic means for achieving efficient Web site, Internet and intranet connectivity, backed by performance and energy conservation. An ADC distributes user requests across multiple servers within a server farm at a data center, thereby enabling flexible and cost-efficient scaling of application performance. An ADC can measure elements such as the number of concurrent connections, memory utilization and much more. It also acts as a traffic cop between the servers and the users directing traffic, thereby accelerating response times. ADCs offer benefits associated with a site’s performance, reliability, offloading and accelerating SSL traffic.
SSL offload/acceleration can dramatically decrease the amount of physical servers needed to provide encrypted access to applications. Since SSL processing places a large burden on server CPU utilization, offloading and accelerating SSL at the ADC frees the servers from handling the compute-intensive SSL processing. SSL offload can help further consolidate the number of servers needed to provide optimum application performance levels. Placing SSL acceleration on the ADC rather than on the server improves the server’s ability to deliver application requests. This, in turn, allows a site to handle more business transactions, and provides faster transaction handling. When servers operate more efficiently, the data center uses less power.
Application Delivery Controllers
Application Delivery Controllers
The early generations of ADCs, also known as load balancers, operated at the transport layer (Layer 4). The newer ADCs also manage the application layer (Layer 7). While the older load balancers made routing decisions based on information in TCP/IP headers, ADC Layer 7 devices may also direct traffic to different servers based on application-level criteria.
The ADC also helps to eliminate bottlenecks by compressing and caching of objects. Rather than having the server handle application requests for the cached objects, the ADC handles them directly by offloading certain content requests from the server. Moreover, the compression and local caching help eliminate network congestion, free up bandwidth and eliminate wasted energy.
Previously, ADCs had been large, expensive devices. But newer products are low-cost and ultra-low power consumption devices-in some cases drawing 5 to 10 times less power than other older products. There are a number of benefits to being an ultra-low, power-consuming device. Some benefits include significant decrease in the use and expense associated with energy, and much lower cooling requirements (further driving down energy costs and associated waste).
Wasting less energy and lowering costs
Because a server farm can be designed with one or two ADCs for high availability to support hundreds of servers, the low consumption factor can have a significant effect on total energy usage and costs. Low energy consumption network devices enable SMBs to lower their energy bills and reduce cooling requirements. Through robust optimization features such as resource-based load balancing and SSL acceleration, both Managed Hosting Providers (MHPs) and SMB customers can deliver optimum application performance across their servers. Optimizing servers means less energy being wasted and lower operating costs, while promoting a greener environment.
An ADC can reduce power consumption and improve performance in an SMB’s data center. Companies also see great results in improved efficiency, not only in the data center but in the company’s overall network as well. As energy pricing continues to soar, SMBs need to find solutions that will both save money and keep the company competitive in an increasingly IT-intensive world.
Peter Melerud is VP of Product Management at KEMP Technologies. Peter has over 20 years experience in designing, building and managing datacenters for large corporations, financial institutions, as well as small and medium-sized businesses. His broad technology expertise covers datacenter server and network communications infrastructure, enterprise business intelligence, data management, content security and compliance technologies.
At KEMP Technologies, Peter is responsible for product management and business development of application delivery and load-balancing solutions for the small and medium enterprise (SME) infrastructure market. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.