Energy saving through virtualization

The human body is often hailed as a well coordinated machine controlled by clear signals from the brain. Imagine multiple brains supervising the body’s functions. Clash of signals, wastage of resources and over straining of body parts can be visualized, making the collapse of the machine inevitable. Similar would have been the fate of data centers without virtualization. Data centers, controlled by multiple servers, were frowned at for exhaling large amounts of carbon, feeding the global warming albatross.

These multiple servers sucked in a lot of energy resulting in high maintenance costs, excessive heat generation and poor IT infrastructure. Data centers were bound to destroy the environment and dig deep holes into the pockets of IT companies, pulling the shutters down for some. But virtualization transformed them into green apparatus — eco-friendly machines topped with the ‘money honey’. It did so by allowing servers, earlier dedicated to one application, to be used for diverse applications. As a result, server efficiency and flexibility improved reducing the total numbers of energy gulping physical servers.

With eco reality being integrated into the IT business agenda today, virtualization is the green computing ace IT companies are betting on. The first eco-friendly perk virtualization boasts of is power saving. With most servers and desktops being used only for 8-15% of the time they are powered on, machines are eating 60-90% of power when idle. Virtualization helps reduce energy consumption by 80-90%. Marching ahead with this energy-efficiency banner is VM ware. Be its distributed resource scheduler (DRS) that intelligently powers off unneeded physical servers or V Motion that allows the client to move an entire running virtual machine from one server to another or ESX Server letting customers to run 10 applications on a single hardware. VM ware has plugged in the power saving socket. Every server consolidated in application saves about 7,000 kWh per year, which is equal to removing 1.5 cars from the road or planting 55 trees.

Not lagging behind are Sun Micro system, IBM, AMD, Cisco, Foundry and Nortel. From IBM’s Virtualization Engine to AMD’s Rapid Virtualization Indexing, allowing the client to host more virtual machines (VMs) per server, to Foundry’s Vipron that cuts the number of application servers and ADCs needed saving on power to Cisco’s Inter-VSAN routing (IVR) eliminating the need for having dedicated resources for each SAN fabric, IT companies are pressing the energy-saving buttons.

Computers are heat inefficient. If 500w is pumped in to operate them, another 500w is required to cool them. By reducing the number of servers, heat emissions fall, cutting the CO2 emissions the cooling appliances breathe out. Virtualization also cuts on hardware requirement, softening the tone of the e-waste out cry that the IT sector has heard for generations.

The green virtualization flag being waved by the IT sector also brings in green bucks as it is a cost-cutting strategy. Be it IBM’s consolidation of thousands servers onto 30 System Z mainframes expected to save $250 million over five years or Nortel’s CPU optimisation that can help an enterprise save $530K on power costs or Cisco’s Inter-VSAN routing that allows resources to be effectively shared, saving up to 67% on power. Virtualization shrinks the power bills, filling the pocket of IT companies. Companies that ignore virtualization will pay 15-20% more than they need to for IT.

Virtualization also reduces the need for expensive infrastructure upgrades to deal with increased power and cooling demands. Of every rupee spent on server power consumption, an additional 60 paisa is required to spend on cooling and backup. Virtualization saves 60% of the energy bills on cooling and backup.

Every server removed from the data centre saves $800 per year in power and cooling alone. The average CPU utilisation of most servers is in single digits. But by implementing virtualization, firms can easily double the CPU utilization. Virtualization helps save on hardware expenditure that constitutes 42% of the total expenditure for the IT sector.

Other monetary benefits offered by virtualization include reduced real estate space and saving on management and administrative costs. The benefits of virtualization really runs the gambit — ongoing maintenance and management, reduction of hardware acquisition costs, and better architecture for availability, security and performance. This makes virtualization the standard for how you design your IT resources for the future.

Apart from the green bucks, virtualization has become the bone marrow of green data centers. Estimates show that globally, data centers consume 40 terawatt hours of electricity each year, producing 17.2 billion tons of CO2 emissions. The reason for this is poor utilisation of resources gulping down large amounts of power. The solution lies in centralisation through virtualization. By virtualizing the resources of a data center, an enterprise can offer services across the globe from a single centralised data center.

IT companies are looking at automation of virtualization solutions as the next step to boost their output and fulfill green commitments. Imagine a server allocating resources for four CPUs. Today, if one part needs more resources, the allocation needs to be done manually. But Sun Microsystems and the like are working at automating this resource management. With such innovations, the future of virtualization seems brighter.Virtualization as a green computing solution is here to stay.