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How green is your data center?

(Posted on behalf of Niyati Kamthan)


Did you know that 90% of the data in the world has been created in just the last two years?  Walmart's warehouse itself handles 2.5 petabytes of information. Roughly equal to half the letters delivered by the US Postal department in 2010! As our world gets digitized, we are creating stupendous amount of data. Whenever we need information on anything under the sun we get it at one click and it appears within seconds on our screen.
And, all the information we use today sits somewhere in giant facilities called data centers. There are tens of thousands of data centers using computing power day and night to make information available to us at lightning speeds. However, these data centers are increasingly becoming a curse than a boon.

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Organizations are under pressure to generate information instantly so that there is no compromise on the user experience. For this reason, they run their facilities at maximum capacity around the clock, whatever the demand. As a result, data centers can waste 90 percent or more of the electricity they pull off the grid. A close look at the power consumption demands of these widespread data centers suggests that these digital warehouses use multibillion watts of electricity which can be sufficient to run a mid-sized town of the United States for a year. Moreover, In case of power failures, these data centers depend on the diesel fueled generators, which pollute environment to the extent that many data centers appear on government bodies' radar. 

Accountability to the environment is one thing but more often than not businesses argue that organizations do not run on the premise of "what serves the planet best".  It has to make sense and enable them to grow. Here is an eye opener - Gartner says that 20% of total IT spend is on data centers, with average utilization of data centers somwehere around 7-12 %. These figures are alarming and it is apparent that these energy hungry data centers are a huge cost drain. In addition, sales are getting disturbed as many of the end consumers consider the environmental record of their supplier. Shareholders also prefer to invest in the companies that support sustainability.

So, greener data centers are vital to meet business demands and to reduce the impact on the environment. Green strategies such as virtualization, standardization, and automation can enable the data center to deliver the same level of service with a smaller footprint. Server consolidation and application renewal can extend the life of existing systems and limit investment in new equipment.
Cloud based offerings can facilitate IT to shrink the carbon foot print even when the demand for IT processing continues to rise.

Here is an example, when the IT environment at Ricoh Europe was spiraling out of control - they envisioned a datacenter strategy to support their business transactions and process transformation program. The challenges that prevented Ricoh Europe to be agile, flexible and scalable included - a large number of physical machines adding to the footprint in energy inefficient datacenters, limited DR capability, high environment provisioning time for projects and slow response to growing business needs.

To solve all these problems, Ricoh Europe partnered with Infosys in January 2011. Infosys designed and implemented a private cloud with two fully resilient tier 3 super hubs to deliver platform on a modern infrastructure with 100% virtualization, along with a transparent IT services model while reducing total cost of ownership. This engagement resulted in some of the extraordinary benefits to the client such as reduction in datacenter space by 75% and carbon emission by approximately 85% and disaster recovery time objective of 3.5 hours from 12 hours.  Further, Infosys and Ricoh Europe were chosen as joint winners of the prestigious Green IT Award for 2012 in the Cloud/Virtualisation Project of the Year category. You can read the full story here.

The Ricoh story shows the power of bringing 'green' principles while designing the data center. The benefits of 'greening' a data center go beyond saving money or saving the planet. Green data centers can provide higher productivity from fewer infrastructures, easy maintenance and upgrades and reduced downtime.

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