From EMC.now Magazine, Q1 2010
By Sue Mellen
EMCers make huge strides in sustainability at the EMC Ireland Center of Excellence.
May 20, 2010—There’s a green ambience around the EMC Ireland Center of Excellence, and not just on St. Patrick’s Day. Because of a multi-year effort coordinated by the IT and Facilities teams, power consumption and electricity-usage costs at the International Data Center in Cork have dropped substantially. More savings are expected.
It’s an important effort that extends beyond the site’s walls. By employing energy-saving strategies for facilities and green IT technologies, employees in Ireland are also showing customers across EMEA that EMC is committed to environmental sustainability.
“Customers across Northern Europe tell us they’re also pursuing green projects,” says EMC International Data Center Manager Alan Cooney. “We hear the sentiment coming especially from customers in the Nordic countries, where sustainability is a big priority.”
Recently, the Irish technology and business association it@cork reflected Europe’s growing attention to this topic by awarding its first-ever “Excellence in Green Technology Award” to EMC. The non-profit it@cork currently serves more than 280 corporate members and sponsors programs and events for professionals throughout County Cork and the province of Munster. It presented the award at its Leaders Awards ceremony in October 2009. The association said, “Last year, EMC celebrated its 20th anniversary in Ireland and announced a €20 million (US$28.8 million) investment in its local research and development center. The Cork facility has become a multi-functional campus and the home of EMC’s international operations. It has emerged as a leader in EMC’s initiative to develop and manufacture energy-efficient information infrastructure technologies.”
The Excellence in Green Technology Award is a recent latest step on a journey that began in 2003, when Cork’s Facilities organization initiated a campus-wide energy audit. The team wanted to officially identify the site’s big energy-users, and it wasn’t long before focus turned to the large corporate data center onsite.
“We identified it first as one of the key elements of the business and second as an area with high energy utilization,” recalls Ken O’Mahony, real estate and facilities director, EMEA. “We wanted to understand the utilization patterns in the center. We asked our colleagues in IT to help us gain that understanding.”
The two departments began meeting (initially daily) to develop energy-efficient policies to institute into the operations of the business-critical data center.
One early initiative involved experimenting to determine if ambient temperatures in the center could be allowed to increase slightly without negatively affecting equipment or data. In keeping with standards promoted by The Green Grid—a consortium of companies dedicated to promoting energy-efficient IT—the EMC team believed it could safely raise the data center temperature by two degrees Celsius.
“Prevailing wisdom dictates keeping a data center below 21°C (70°F),” Mick Hennessy, facilities engineering/operations manager, reports. “We believed we could raise the temperature to 23°C (73.4°F) without threatening operations in any way. We brought it up to 23° over a period of months, constantly monitoring to be sure there was no damage. By making that small adjustment, we reduced cooling system energy consumption by 41 percent. We were able to switch off half of the cooling units.”
Technology in shades of green
A many-faceted plan was emerging. EMC technology would play a major role.
To save space, energy, and money—and to move toward cloud computing—the Cork IT team has been consolidating servers in the data center using VMware virtualization software. In fact, they’ve turned the environment into a showcase of virtual machines. The project is halfway complete, with the site’s previous 108 physical servers now converted into eight virtual servers to every one physical server. The team aims to attain a virtual-to-physical ratio of 40 to 1 for its x86 environment by December 2010.
“Already, we’ve achieved power savings of 74 percent and cooling savings of 75 percent,” International IT Operations Director Chris Murphy says. “We’ve also reduced carbon emissions by 387 kilograms (853 lb.) per year.”
EMC Avamar data deduplication technologies are bolstering the green effort as well. In Cork, Avamar software and systems streamline and standardize the backup of data across EMC’s EMEA field offices by centralizing the backups over the network to an Avamar grid in Cork.
Previously, office staffers, often non-technical employees, were responsible for backing up sales data in local offices. Not only was the process time-consuming and inefficient, but duplicate backup data also claimed too much storage space. “In some cases, more than 70 percent of incoming backup data was duplicate,” Cooney says.
Data deduplication enabled EMC to remove server backup devices from fifty field offices and ultimately achieve a deduplication rate of 72 percent. Nightly backup time has shrunk from 5-6 hours to 20 minutes, which will equate to saving $1.5 million over five years.
This quarter, the IT team also is implementing EMC Rainfinity file management “to automatically migrate and archive older data to an EMC Centera system, providing more economical, less power-hungry storage,” Murphy says.
Going with the flow
A longer-duration energy conservation project has culminated in a redesign of the layout of hot and cold corridors in the Cork’s data center. Over the past five years, IT and Facilities reconfigured the arrangement of server racks to create a more efficient airflow pattern. Hot and cold airflows are now contained in separate corridors, reducing hot spots.
“The new layout is structured almost like an auto exhaust, with all servers facing the same way,” says O’Mahony.
The rearrangement boosted cooling efficiency for the servers and for the air-conditioning units themselves, enabling four of the seven cooling units to be taken offline.
And good news is wafting on the breezes of Cork’s notoriously cool year-round weather. Teams are studying whether EMC can employ free/fresh-air cooling technology to cool the data center and labs. They estimate that Cork’s climate may allow them to power down air-conditioning for part of the year.
“This technique wouldn’t work in many parts of the world,” says Alan. “It’s about time we get some benefit from our weather.”
The benefits of partnership
By all accounts, the partnership between EMC IT and EMC Real Estate & Facilities has been the biggest factor in making the EMC Ireland COE greener than it has ever before been.
Benefits should continue to appear as the team members monitor the effects of their changes and assess new initiatives.
Cooney says, “In the past, Facilities would get the electricity bills but have no voice to change anything on IT’s side. Meanwhile the people in IT never saw those bills, so they didn’t understand the energy-related effects of the decisions they’d made. We’ve changed all that.”
Wearing of the Green Campus-wide
Teams focused attention on the data center and the rest of the EMC Ireland COE to reduce energy costs and carbon emissions campus-wide.
All printing defaults to double-sided, and secure printing is operating on all multi-function devices. (Secure printing holds jobs until a user enters a PIN to claim them. A time-out feature deletes unclaimed jobs, preventing stacks of forgotten prints from piling up at the printer.) The result is an 18 percent decrease in paper use. “This seems like a simple measure, but it makes a big difference,” Alan Cooney says.
PC monitors power-down after 15 minutes of inactivity. This is now the worldwide corporate standard, and it all started in Cork.
Future measures will include powering-down inactive PCs and laptops at night and weekends. “We’d need to use technology to ensure the machines aren’t running background jobs. But with so many machines, our savings could be huge,” Chris Murphy says.
The team also is investigating a virtual desktop infrastructure to relocate all applications, programs/utilities, and data to the data center, minimizing local hard-drive storage and CPU energy use. “People would work on thin clients—energy-efficient, low-cost, centrally managed computers that serve basically as a user interface,” Murphy says.
In Q309, a Cisco TelePresence videoconferencing system began enabling high-definition, no-latency virtual meetings. Most major EMC sites now offer TelePresence, which reduces EMC’s travel carbon footprint, saves money, and allows EMC to connect customers to its own experts from all over the globe.
An energy-efficient lighting project involved removing 900 light fittings and introducing motion and daylight sensors; it has resulted in a 35 percent reduction in lighting-related energy consumption.
The site’s IS393 energy management improvement program encompassed engineering projects such as a chiller plant upgrade, transformer consolidation, air-handling scheduling, and energy monitoring and targeting—collectively resulting in an 8 percent reduction in total campus energy consumption.