Increasing energy costs and expanding power utilisation needs are having a direct impact on business profitability. Add to this the social concerns over the global climate crisis and conservation efforts that have led to regulatory compliance initiatives, and businesses are increasingly pressured to find new solutions to ensuring IT business implementations are more eco-friendly.
Chief among these initiatives is to develop improvements that increase energy efficiency in data centres and eliminate power wastage by inactive servers and workstations.
As such, several commercial solutions for improving computing energy efficiency are now available. Data centre power utilisation is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the energy impacts on the whole of business computing.
A recent EMA survey has indicated that workstations, including desktops and laptops, account for roughly 90% of total business IT utilisation. Although PCs and laptops have built-in utilities to assist in power management, use of these tools are usually left up to end-users who are not held accountable for energy consumption or its associated costs.
As such, servers and workstations are often left fully functional and operating 24/7. Sometimes this is done to provide 24 hour production support, facilitate after hours functions like backups and maintenance or because the manual process of daily shutdowns is both cumbersome and impractical.
True energy efficiency in IT business systems therefore require all these factors to be taken into consideration. To regain control over IT operational expenses, businesses require tools that can regulate power usage from a centralised interface to enforce company policies and eliminate wasted energy.
First attempts to introduce energy efficiency to computing included the development of automatic power downs of unused systems and “hibernating” tools that suspend system operation without the need for a full system shutdown.
These tools are primarily used for desktop and client systems which do not require continuous operation and were initially developed to replace the inefficient screen savers applications commonly used at the time.
Modern power management tools built directly into operating systems now allow users to determine a period of inactivity as a trigger for initiating either a shutdown or system hibernation, which is a more cost effective solution. Recent advances in automated systems management tools have also become available to assist with improving energy efficiency too.
However, data centres require a more sophisticated solution to power management than desktops. They need to regulate power utilisation without impacting day-to-day IT production requirements and business needs. Here again, automation is the key to success as triggers and schedules can be set to automatically power down unused systems and power up prior to production use on a maintenance activity.
Suitable automation solutions will provide a centralised interface to automate the power utilisation of all systems in an IT infrastructure. The solution should also provide the flexibility to account for business and IT-specific activities so that business performance remains unhindered. This can be achieved by dividing the solution into two distinct process sets, namely working hours and after hours power management.
During work hours, power policies can be created to determine under what conditions (principally length of idle time) systems should power down screens or disks, or systems should be placed in hibernation mode. Since these policies can be applied to groups of systems, implementation and maintenance of the policies is greatly simplified and can be performed by a single administrator from a single interface.
Sophisticated policies can also be developed to work around system backups, virus scans, patch installations, and other maintenance requirements after hours through remote out-of-band management of workstations.
The environmental issues addressed by automation solutions don’t stop with energy efficiency. By enabling remote administration, problem diagnosis and remediation, automation software can significantly reduce the travel requirements of IT administrators to customer sites and remote offices.
Less transportation use translates into increased savings on the total “carbon footprint” of the IT implementation and business utilisation.