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Green IT Beyond Virtualization: The Case For Consolidation

Consolidation projects have been popular since long before green IT was the rage. A few years ago, considerations such as operational efficiency, centralized policy management, reliability, and security were typically the business drivers. But now, with almost nightly news coverage of global warming, stricter domestic and international government regulations, and intense public pressure on companies to adopt environmentally friendly practices, some businesses have shown a willingness to spend a bit more on programs that increase their green cred.

If the initiative is such that it can be boiled down and trumpeted in press releases, all the better.

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But for most of us, the reality is that businesses still expect IT to cut overall costs, even as they mandate greenness. The good news is that these goals aren't mutually exclusive. In fact, more often than not, cost-cutting consolidation efforts result in lower environmental impact, advancing the green mandate. E-mail is a prime example in that it's one of the most ubiquitous enterprise applications. Many users and organizations consider e-mail to be the most critical form of communication they have, surpassing the telephone. If the PBX goes down, users will pull out their cell phones and manage to connect with customers. But if the corporate e-mail system falters, widespread panic generally ensues.

Eliminating multiple sites hosting e-mail servers reduces IT's operational footprint and associated utility consumption.

Fewer servers acquired and operated results in lower consumption of power and cooling. Fewer assets must be disposed of during the next upgrade cycle.

Data deduplication provides large backup capacity with significantly less storage power consumption, fewer tapes and tape libraries, and reduced bandwidth.

WAN optimization allows for a greater number of satellite offices and telecommuters, reducing travel.

So it's no surprise that e-mail-related projects are highly visible--particularly when something goes wrong--and not typically where IT experiments. Still, there's room for innovative consolidation approaches that provide a robust e-mail environment while reducing the number of servers, improving reliability and service levels, and lowering costs associated with backups and related resources such as disks or tapes. All of which add up to a checkmark under the "green" column.

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