The emerald kingdom

Sean Robson reports on the latest solutions and practices that make going green easier for enterprises.

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By  Sean Robson Published  July 12, 2008

Whether you are building a new datacentre or upgrading an old one, environmentally-friendly technologies are becoming a necessity. Sean Robson reports on the latest solutions and practices that make going green easier for enterprises.

The concept of the ‘green' datacentre is, to paraphrase another writer, an idea whose time has come. All around the world they are talking about it, and here in the Middle East it is no different.

But what exactly is a green datacentre? What does green mean exactly and how can datacentres go about becoming this particular colour?

Chief technical officer at Pacific Controls, Nigel McKenzie, argues that green means different things to different people, and he appears to be right.

When it comes to datacentres we need them to live longer, and they have to be built to be adaptive. They need to be made dynamic, and to do so we should reduce power and space by consolidation and virtualisation.

"It means a lot of things to a a lot of people, but for Pacific Controls it's about protecting the environment. Our work is primarily related to energy and carbon emissions," he states.

"Green is using your energy in an efficient way, not wasting that energy and making sure you are making the most out of what you have in terms of space and power," explains Bassem Aboukhater regional IT director of advertising firm, Leo Burnett.

"To Nortel, green means applying technology to the benefit of the environment, to significantly reduce energy consumption, the carbon footprint and in the long run costs as well," says Apollinaire Moreno-Borondo, head of sales engineering at Nortel Middle East.

Farook Majeed, Middle East regional manager at Foundry Networks believes not only in saving the environment but also in saving on the bottom line. "It is about providing a business proposition to customers where they are able to have the best of both worlds, business and cost savings through lower RoI and opex, while concurrently making an impact environmentally."

Slightly different in their thinking but no less committed to the green movement is HP. "HP does not believe that there is green IT per say, but instead we refer to greening IT or the datacentre because we are still moving towards a true green datacentre," says Rashid Al Omari, infrastructure consultant for HP Middle East.

The choices abound

While the definitions of green remain fluid and varied, the market of products and solutions is also confusing. There are a host of green products on offer and it's essentially the job of the IT manager or CIO to wade through the options and select the best products for his datacentre.

The Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority (DSOA) is a technology zone on the cutting edge of new technologies and solutions, and a good example of an enterprise that has taken the green initiative to heart.

"We have devised the park to be an optimal technological facility to meet our clients' needs and to operate as efficiently as possible. This includes initiatives such as the optimisation of power management, and replacement of obsolete hardware.

Furthermore, server consolidation is presently undertaken as a major project in DSOA's IT Department," says Abdulsalam Bastaki, director of IT and services at DSOA.

Some of the most popular solutions among Middle East enterprises for going green are virtualisation and consolidation technologies, along with the streamlining of power management and introduction of blade servers.

"Server virtualisation and single instancing or de-duplication technology all help by reducing the number of servers and libraries needed to contain the data which, in turn, reduces carbon emissions, energy requirements and finally utility bills," explains Nigel Tozer, channel development manager
at CommVault.

Information and technology research firm Gartner has been closely observing and mapping the trend towards green, and according to vice-president Rakesh Kumar, they have noted the move towards virtualisation, and have also observed a demonstrable change in the architecture and design of datacentres.

"We are seeing a whole new breed of infrastructure management structures. Datacentre managers are creating inventories of the datacentre, as well as doing things like airflow analysis," says Kumar.

McKenzie concurs with this observation. "The fabric or envelope of the building can definitely help. Architecture and structure of the building can play a greening role. For instance, if you reduce the heat gain into a building this will help reduce cooling and energy expenditure."

"You can set up the switches, routers and hardware in your datacentre and identify the power expenditure by doing an energy modelling. That produces an energy profile for the building, and if you find that the energy expenditure is unacceptable, you make changes," McKenzie adds.

Choosing the technologies that will add value to the datacentre can be a confusing and often times daunting task. Majeed says, "Businesses should choose the technologies that best fit their objectives, both performance and finance oriented. We believe that companies should also look for products that adhere to open-standard technologies."

"This allows companies to choose greener or more efficient products from one or more vendors and not be locked into one vendor whose other products are not very green or efficient," advises Majeed.

The old, the new and the newer

Even with the confusing choices going green can be easy, especially when an enterprise is building a datacentre from scratch.

Al-Omari at HP takes this approach. "When it comes to datacentres we need them to live longer, and they have to be built to be adaptive. They need to be made dynamic and to do so we should reduce power and space by consolidation and virtualisation. There are many underutilised assets in datacentres consuming power and cooling," he says.

Elements of going green

Virtualisation: The set of technologies can dramatically improve your datacentre in terms of productivity and expenditure.

Server consolidation: Many enterprises have servers taking up space but not working to capacity.

Power and cooling systems: The power and cooling you are currently using should be examined and improved.

Architecture and design of buildings: The structure of the building can play a role in going green.

Airflow analysis within the datacentre: Determining the heat and how to optimise space for better airflow can add real value.

Better energy management integration with BMS: This is still in the initial stages of adoption, though it is predicted to grow.

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