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Green Saves Green

By Sanjay Mirchandani

From ON Magazine

Green Saves Green
Sanjay Mirchandani, senior vice president and CIO at EMC, says efficient and environmentally sensitive IT is doable in bite-sized chunks.

When people in my organization took EMC's first steps toward green IT, they weren't thinking, "Let's reduce our carbon footprint." But that's exactly what they were about to do.

I didn't lead EMC's green IT effort. I inherited a good situation. In 2004, nearly five years before I became CIO, green IT initiatives at EMC just took off.

Circumstances demanded action: The primary data center was aging. We were growing as a company. We'd hit the limit of power, space, capacity, every dimension you can think of.

Of course, you don't revamp an IT infrastructure overnight. It's a capital expenditure, and it has an effect on strategy. But we'd acquired dozens of companies, decommissioned their data centers, and moved legacy power-hogs into our shop. Capacity planning was difficult. Space and power problems compounded.

Around that time, however, EMC (on its way to becoming a full information infrastructure provider) started building information lifecycle management (ILM) products. Of course, we wanted to use and showcase our company's ILM approaches and technologies; they would enable us to put old, infrequently accessed data on lower-performance storage media requiring less power and cooling. Our green journey had begun.

Today the effort extends into EMC's research and development labs, sales offices, everywhere. Employees now use their e-mail signatures to caution others against excessive printing. People walk around turning off monitors.

Little drops of water make an ocean

My IT organization forms a considerable chunk of EMC's carbon footprint. It's the nature of the work we do. Data centers consume electricity, as do IT labs.

I oversee EMC's network of Centers of Excellence (CoEs) in addition to serving as CIO. CoEs are delivery centers all over the world in which engineers and other employees perform R&D, IT, support services, back-office functions, and much more.

The CoEs have large footprints, but they also have electricity-reduction programs in full swing. Once, each team within a given CoE had its own equipment running on weekends. Now, they decide together how many physical servers and arrays really must remain on after hours. Our team designed a tool to identify which systems lab managers can power-down that weekend. We're seeing substantial electricity savings as a result.

It is gratifying to note that no one is pushing others to act here. Just like in the world of security software, where security is paramount-where every line of code must be perfect and no bug is too minor-people have realized that nothing is too small when it comes to green IT.

EMC product developers: Use our shop

We test EMC's in-development offerings on our floor and report our observations to EMC's hardware, software, and professional services groups. It makes sense: We have a huge environment full of real-life workloads. The R&D engineers inventing green IT products can take advantage of our production environment.

We worked for months with developers of EMC's new SourceOne software to help ship a better, greener product. One of SourceOne's advantages is that, based on policy, it can store aging e-mail in a low-cost tier, and obviously, there's a dramatic energy consumption difference between Tier 1 and Tier 5 storage.

On the hardware side, we helped verify scalability and create valid use-cases for Enterprise Flash Drive (EFD) technology. Used right, EFDs reduce power, cooling, and space requirements. We worked with the Symmetrix microcode team, who analyzed our applications to see which pieces needed speed and which didn't, so that when we added Flash, we didn't have to add it to an entire array.

The IT team is helping again with the Symmetrix V-Max Fully Automated Storage Tiering (FAST) capability, providing real-time workload analyses of our production data centers to allow EMC's developers to tune the FAST algorithms. And we partner with members of EMC's Professional Services organization on green best practices and approaches.

We believe it's a requirement that we in IT step up and be part of these efforts so that EMC's customers get better, greener products. Our teams chomp at the bit to do more of it.

Bold stakes

I'm in an advantageous position because my organization supports a company whose products make green IT a reality. I doubt we'll ever sit back and say, "We're done; we've saved tens of millions of dollars." New technologies and best practices are continually coming into play. Industry green groups are publishing what's working elsewhere. Our people participate in these consortia, both as consumers of the green IT knowledge being disseminated and as thought-leader contributors to that body of knowledge.

We must bring the ideas to bear in our environment. The stakes we've set for ourselves are very bold, and our entire IT organization is all over this, including sharing our edge with customers not operating in the high-tech sector. Our people speak directly with visiting customers, showing them that data center efficiency, virtual data centers, and the related topics that they want to hear about are inextricably intertwined with green. Even when a customer simply wishes to chat about our overall data center best practices, they get a dose of green from us. Our IT pros provided approximately 600 customers last year with this kind of information.

We, along with EMC's Engineering and Manufacturing units, are EMC's biggest electricity users. We'd rather be in the hall of fame than the hall of shame.

Other CIOs should know that efficient and environmentally sensitive IT is doable in bite-sized chunks. Build your peoples' skills incrementally. You learn from each wave of effort. And at every stage, if you do it right, you will enjoy both energy and monetary savings.

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