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Going Green Strategies — thoughts from my data centre

August 22, 2008
by Wayne Craige
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I spend most of my professional career going in and out of technology data centers for some reason or the other. Today more that before I noticed that many data centers are at their max with space constraints, power/heat constraints, and aging technology infrastructure. Likewise, businesses, clinics and hospital buildings that house data centers are becoming old and less suitable with many energy related challenges. Challenges that are now attracting the EPA……

At the end of 2006 the EPA was asked to present a report about the large amount of energy which is now being spent in the United States on IT data centers. The report was provided to the US Congress on August 7th of 2007.

What you will see today, is newly build hospitals/medical buildings are moving in the direction of (green) earth-friendly construction. Today new building constructions changes are more about energy conservation and environmental related solutions along the line of making patient care safer and recovery quicker.

From a physician perspective - new environmental and energy efficient buildings (hospitals/clinics) are about reducing medical errors.

Well, how does technology fit in current (green) changes? On the technology side, one of the first steps of “green data centre” is consolidation. To reduce the number of physical data centers to operate and to be able to manage a simplified technology environment. Secondly, implement virtualization (physical consolidation of servers and storage) strategies.

Virtualization strategy focuses on the removal of physical resource boundaries and ultimately increases hardware utilization (allocate less physical boundary and reduce software licensing costs). This allows data center managers to better utilize equipment. As you virtualized back-end equipment from both a server and storage standpoint you will be able to leverage your distributed space and have low utilization which will reduce the amount of equipment in the data center and your buildings. And as you reduce the amount of equipment in your data center the amount of power and cooling that’s required drops drastically.

The large amount of electrical power being spent on IT today have reached the point where it has attracted both government and environmental attention and the projection for additional Health care IT applications will only exacerbate the situation if current technology trends continue unchanged.

So now you’re asking, can I make my applications green – application integration? The secret behind virtualization of applications is to consolidate the images of your software and operating systems (OS) onto single physical server. By doing so reduces the number of copies of your OS and middleware applications (databases/web). The output is a merger of all application within one distributed image that can be utilized across your enterprise. This also greatly reduces your software (copies) and licensing cost.

SaaS providers are flocking to open source for the same reasons as enterprise IT shops -- acquisition and licensing costs that are 80% lower than comparable proprietary offerings.

Now, on the facility side, incorporate a strategy that's supported by the EPA and other environment friendly recommendations. Improve your facility operations using best practices and conservation techniques. From a best practice perspective, approach your IT data center by looking at the efficiency of those individual resources and leveraging them. Take into consideration your geographic location and how to leverage other capabilities such as free cooling.

As a technology leader, what are you doing to go green? A number of IT Equipment manufacturers are addressing the situation at the server end through integrated IT/facilities modular solutions, but virtualization so far is the most promising technology to address both the issues of IT resource utilization and facilities space, power, and cooling utilization. What’s your green strategy?



Thanks Tim! Indeed I can only imagine what it would have been like back then as hospitals invest in new and expanded data centers/facilities to support electronic medical records and clinical process redesign - go green!

Michael - once again welcome aboard! I can only imagine how ugly this problem would have been 15-20 years ago when mini-computers and mainframes with much larger footprints were "mainstream" and represented the standard in HCIT. This is a topic that many HCIT organizations will have to address. Great post!