July 28, 2009, 5:50 PM — As I mentioned during last week's Open Source Convention, the open source community is applying its philosophies to Good Works efforts that have little to do with the merits of sharing source code. Among them is the notion that, whether for economic or planet-savings reasons, it's a smart idea to make our data centers more Green. In a session titled, "Green Computing for the Little Guys: What Can a Fortune 2000 Company Do To Green Their Centralized Computing Resources?" moderator James Turner interviewed Bill Weihl, Google's Green Energy Czar, and Allyson Klein, Server Technology and Software Strategy Manager at Intel, about the ways modest-sized businesses can reduce their power and cooling requirements.
[ See also: Convincing the Boss to Accept FOSS ]
Obviously, large enterprises can justify making a big investment in Green computing because the payoff is noticeable. But Klein and Weihl assert that the benefits are even more meaningful for organizations with smaller data centers.
For example, said Weihl, Google has a three-pronged apporach to reducing its carbon footprint, which any company can adopt: make the servers themselves more efficient, improve the power supplies, and improve the actual data center. The easiest to tackle, Weihl said, is power supplies: "They are typically inefficient, and surprisingly easy to make more efficient."
Power Usage Effectiveness (POE) is a measure of how much energy a data center consumes. Google's data center, said Weihl, has a PUE of 1.2, which means a 20% overhead. "We do it by managing airflow really carefully," he explained, including the temperature of the air that goes into the servers. "Most of the overhead in the facility goes into the cooling plant," he said. Primarily, they use evaporative cooling towers rather than mechanical chillers.
It sometimes feels a little icky to quote a vendor on technical matters — surely they are biased? — but it's just as appropriate for vendors to think Green as it is for the open source community to do so. Perhaps more so. As Klein explained, the climate savers program — of which Intel was a founding board member — started in 2007 with a mission of helping PCs and servers to be more efficient. Companies that sign up for climate savers, she said, are committing their IT purchases to use efficent power supplies, energy-star rated equipment and the use of power management across the organization.
So how can your company save money in its data center, without approaching the CFO with shaking knees? Here's a few of the ideas they shared.