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Mark Peters
Mark Peters
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Green IT Discussion Changes

New tools and technologies have made it easier to be green in the data center, even if we don't call it that these days.

So, what else has changed in recent years to reduce the green focus and do any of those changes in and of themselves either contribute to, and/or drive, a renewed need for it? When the green IT buzz first broke out it there was much made about how enterprise data centers could be made more efficient. We heard about better building design, standards of measurement and improved hardware and software functionality with improved management automation for management. Then came Cloud (whether public, private or hybrid), which represented another path to improve IT function, simplify operations and reduce costs … and engendered a separate, parallel debate concerning the energy efficacy of cloud computing. Are we just shifting the problem, or are we actually promoting and using an optimized approach? In reality, each of the major options -- traditional IT, cloud or hybrid cloud -- can have the potential for greater business efficiencies including positive energy and sustainability advances.

In 2007, when discussions -- and dismay -- about spiraling data center energy usage first spawned the rush to green IT, we were still largely operating in a pre-cloud model. Every enterprise had one or more data centers and probably maintained proprietary assets at a co-lo facility as well. Server virtualization was in its early stages of acceptance and adoption. The Cloud was just over the horizon. At that point the three key tenets of IT efficiency -- consolidation, optimization, automation -- were being applied to enterprise owned and operated data centers:

-- Consolidation applied to everything: data centers, storage, networks, applications and especially servers via virtualization.

-- Optimization delivered a payback once consolidation had taken place, through such tools as the tiering of data and applications by importance and resource access, as well as by deduplication. Total costs of operation were often reduced, while business continuity was better enabled with more virtualization.

-- Automation focused on reduced management complexity and effort and increased deployment of business process software.

If we were still looking only for the best ways to optimize these enterprise data centers, all of that advice and those tools still make sense. But there have also been numerous technology innovations from Big-Tech and start-ups alike, with new products and functionality that can reduce environmental impact and improve IT efficiency. Truth be told, this has been a continuing effort and focus since the gold-old-green-days of 2008 -- it just doesn't get talked about much. In storage for instance, most vendors are leveraging software to huge effect in terms of storage efficiency. Time was when it was all about the hardware, more efficient power supplies and maybe a spun-down disk here and there. Now, nearly every storage provider has some version of software for automated storage tiering, thin provisioning, data de-duplication, intelligent cooling and data compression. Software-defined-greenness anyone? Beyond just storage, there is also a growing number of integrated (converged) infrastructure systems that combine compute, storage, network, virtualization and sometimes even applications into a single package, with benefits in terms of both simpler operations and greater (green) efficiencies.

Bottom line? Perhaps I took an overly negative view by saying green seems to be receiving less emphasis these days. Perhaps it has "converged" into overall IT efficiency. But it still seems to me deserving of more direct attention -- after all, the world is spinning (ie, paying for) an awful lot of stuff that simply never gets referenced. Is that optimum, let alone green? I just thought I'd run the green flag once more up the -- naturally sustainable -- pole.

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