INTEROP - Color Interop green

It wasn't St. Patrick's Day, but there was plenty of green to be found at Interop New York 2007.

Several conference tracks were sprinkled with topics on attaining better power, heat and cooling efficiency with data centers, servers and storage architectures. IBM dedicated its keynote address to green storage initiatives. And Foundry Networks touted the efficiencies of its latest switch offerings.

Energy consumption is "an inconvenient truth for us in the IT industry," said Barry Rudolph, vice president of portfolio management for disk and software in IBM System Storage.

During his keynote, Rudolph said green initiatives are the new operational objectives for enterprise data centers and data center vendors. There is no letup in the demand for data center growth and services, yet there's a power scarcity in the compute-intensive environments, he says.

Servers consume 1.2 percent of the energy devoted to data centers, Rudolph said. The cost of powering a data center equals the cost of purchasing data center servers over the life of that asset, he said.

Half of all the power used in a data center goes to cooling, Rudolph said. One-quarter of the power is consumed by servers and storage. The remainder is used up by conversion, networking and lighting, he said.

"The current energy usage trends [in the data center] are not sustainable," Rudolph said. "This is not a fad; energy usage is a defining issue for society."

Some of the ways data center operators can maximize efficiency are to balance load across remote data centers, continually assess data center and storage usage, deploy more power efficient storage, and utilize storage more efficiently by virtualizing and pooling resources, among other methods.

"This has economic, social and regulatory impact," Rudolph said of data center energy consumption. "Power and cooling issues are significant and here to stay."

Foundry's energy policy

In recognition of that, Foundry Networks -- one of the few major infrastructure vendors to make an announcement at the conference -- unveiled its own strategy for encouraging energy efficiency in data centers. Users can achieve an 80 percent reduction in power consumption just by consolidating and virtualizing server connections, said Bill Ryan, Foundry senior product marketing manager.

As for switches and their individual components, power supplies that were only 70 percent efficient three years ago are now 80 percent efficient, decreasing the number of watts wasted as heat -- which requires cooling -- to generate output watts for power. Foundry's goal is to get to 90 percent power supply efficiency, Ryan says.

Foundry also endorses virtualization of servers to attain energy efficiency. This consolidates resources, optimizes performance and reduces power consumption -- five devices running at 10 percent utilization consume more power than one device running at 50 percent utilization, Ryan says.

Foundry also advocates consolidating separate data center network technologies used for network, server and storage connectivity onto Ethernet. While network connectivity in a data center is already on Ethernet, server connectivity is typically on Myrinet, Infiniband or a proprietary technology if not on Ethernet; and storage is usually on FibreChannel or iSCSI if not Ethernet.

Consolidating all environments onto Ethernet leads to optimal utilization and lower power consumption through a reduction in the overall number of connectivity elements, Ryan says.

Lastly, Foundry naturally touted the role its newest data center switch -- the 32-slot BigIron RX32 -- plays in the green data center. By consolidating the number of switch chassis required in the data center, the RX32 can reduce power from 30 kilowatts to 10 kilowatts in a single chassis, Ryan claims.

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