Oct 08 2008

Virtualization Comes in Many Shades of Green

Over the past few years, two flavors of virtualization — server and desktop — have been creeping up on college campuses and proving their worth in terms of IT efficiency and cost savings.

In “Get a Grip,” on page 22, network administrators at Metropolitan Community College in Kansas City, Mo., explain how desktop virtualization has made it possible to provide students with two versions of Microsoft’s popular Office suite — Office 2003 and 2007 — on the same computer. Similar to server virtualization, desktop virtualization lets IT centralize operating systems and applications and provide access over the network, eliminating the need to load software onto individual PCs. Metropolitan is also considering using desktop virtualization to provide unique applications to students at different campuses.

Less Is More

While desktop virtualization is gaining converts, server virtualization continues to chalk up strong cost savings and efficiency for campus IT departments. Franklin University in Columbus, Ohio, is an example. By shifting to virtualization, the school not only reduced the number of physical servers it hosts by one-fifth, it also freed up existing servers for new projects, further reducing hardware costs.

“When you have to buy or upgrade a [physical] server every time you bring in a new application, you take on a lot of work, which translates into lost revenue and time,” says Richard Caldwell, senior virtualization administrator for Franklin University’s Technology Infrastructure and Network Services Group.

Hardware cost savings are not the only draw; reduced power consumption and ease of server deployment also lure many schools to the technology. Indiana University credits its server virtualization project with cutting power requirements from 90 amps to 15 amps, a reduction of 83 percent in electric output. For the full story, turn to “Many Favorable Returns,” on page 24.

These three examples highlight the practical ways that colleges and universities are implementing eco-friendly technology. While the schools sought primarily to offer better IT services to students and staff, these initiatives are producing energy savings through consolidation of resources from a centrally managed server environment, and reducing the need for IT staff to manage individual machines — whether PCs or servers.

Alternative Uses

Finding the right technology and techniques to lower power consumption and produce more energy-efficient systems is key for many institutions of higher learning. Projects range from tweaking server performance to reducing heating and cooling costs to maximizing processing output and alternative heating options. Case in point: The University of Notre Dame, in South Bend, Ind., recently sought to pipe hot air from one of its data centers into the city’s Potawatomi Greenhouse — a technique known as grid heating. Sounds far-fetched, perhaps, but the cost savings may help keep the greenhouse open to the public.

Princeton University’s Plasma Physics Lab is seeing results from optimizing its processors. It now runs high-density quad-core processors that do four times the work yet require significantly less power than single- or dual-core chips. Turning to blade servers for its virtualization efforts, Bryant University consolidated three separate computer rooms into a single data center, reducing 84 physical servers to 40 virtualized servers and maximizing temperature control using monitoring software. You can read more on these green initiatives in “Cool Power,” on page 28.

Editor in Chief, leecop@cdw.com