Virtualization: Another Aspect of Green IT
- By Rutrell Yasin
As IT managers develop strategies and deploy technologies to reduce power consumption
in their facilities, they recognize virtualization does not only reduce server
sprawl, it can also save energy.
The spotlight was on the benefits of virtualization and its impact on datacenter
and server consolidation this week at The Green Computing Summit held by 1105
Government Information Group.
Virtualization can make a single physical resource -- such as a server, operating
system or storage device -- appear to function as multiple resources, or it
can make multiple physical resources appear as a single resource.
Server consolidation is what got Fulton County, Ga. into virtualization, but
now the county is reaping the benefits in training, testing, high availability/disaster
recovery and, eventually, in virtual desktop infrastructure, said Jay Terrell,
chief technology officer and deputy director of IT for the county.
The county has more than 200 Wintel servers, dozens of Unix/Linux systems,
midrange and mainframes systems, and 6,000 PCs. IT supports about 5,500 end
users and 42 departments, Terrell said during a session on virtualization and
moving beyond consolidation.
The county discovered it had a lot of servers that were under-utilized. "We
had a bunch of servers not doing much," Terrell said. The county identified
125 candidates for virtualization and selected 31 servers. All of those servers
will be virtualized by the end of the year. They have also brought on 48 new
virtual production servers.
"With a virtual environment, we can create any server in the datacenter" except
for those that aren't applicable for virtualization, such as some telecommunication
systems, he said.
IT can perform proof-of-concept testing for application and operating system
upgrades before putting them into production environments, Ferrell said.
Virtualization has helped the county more effectively address disaster recovery
and high-availability issues.
"We don't have the money to do a mirrored data-center, so we've focused on
replicating data in real time to an offsite location," Terrell said. Then, the
question came up of how the county would bring up the number of servers it would
need during a disaster. "So we've used virtualization as a way to recreate a
working disaster [recovery]-type environment," he said.
Also, if a server goes down, it can be rebuilt in 10 minutes instead of four
hours. And IT doesn't have to spend extra money on hardware nor bring in the
The county will be rolling out VDI in the future, starting with 34 libraries.
The county has 700 PCs in libraries that need maintenance often. VDI will make
remote support easier and boost security on the machines, Terrell said.
Moving Toward Energy Efficiency
During a session on "Virtualization and the On-Demand Datacenter," experts gave
a glimpse of how virtualization, cloud computing and autonomic computing could
move organizations toward more energy-efficient computing.
Datacenter managers need better diagnostic tools to see what is actually going
in their facilities, said Robert Ames, deputy chief technology officer with
For instance, active energy management software can monitor and manage energy-consuming
components in IT systems and other devices in datacenters. More cooling innovation
is needed to reduce power consumption in systems. Air is an inefficient energy
coolant and, as a result, water-coolant systems are making a comeback, Ames
But a future trend that will bear watching is the union of service-oriented
architecture (SOA) and service-oriented infrastructure (SOI).
SOA focuses on efficiency in application development and reuse tied to business
processes, he said. Typically, though, the underlying infrastructure supporting
SOA is old and static.
SOI promises a more dynamic, resilient infrastructure that can provide IT services
via a pool of resources such as Web servers, application servers, database servers,
servers and storage.
"SOA and SOI need to be together. You can have each one without the other,
but they are better together," Ames said.
Autonomic computing -- the concept of a self-starting, self-configuring, self-optimizing,
self-healing and self-protecting IT system -- combined with virtualization can
be applied to save energy in datacenters, said Daniel Menasce, senior associate
dean and professor of computer science at George Mason University.
Menasce and colleagues have conducted an experiment with software-based controllers
that absorb metrics such as response time, throughput and availability from
systems. Then those metrics can be used to meet quality-of-service levels.
Virtualization combined with autonomic computing will grow in importance due
to its potential to deal with complexity and under-utilization of resources,
Rutrell Yasin is the senior technology editor of Government Computer News (GCN.com).