The Virtualization Room

May 12 2008   7:51PM GMT

Savings from a green data center takes time to grow

Keith Harrell Profile: SAS70ExPERT


Last month, blogger Eric Siebert discussed the cost benefits of virtualization, which stirred some discussion about the role these savings play in the larger scheme of server virtualization strategies.

It seems that the virtualization gospel of cost reduction has drawn criticism from some who see these claims as pie-in-the-sky deals, or at least not as awe-inspiring when compared with less apparent expenses. While Siebert focused on the savings created by decreased data center power consumption, his blog received this response on the Virtual Data Center blog:

I think that the core message behind Eric’s post is a good thing, but it’s missing the big picture. Thinking that saving on raw power is going to translate dollar-for-dollar into OpEx savings is short-sighted. Please do begin looking into power consumption as one of your data center cost metrics and as part of your overall virtualization strategy, but also factor in everything else that’s going to be required to complete this task. You may find that you save a ton of money within 12 months of converting, or you may find that savings is much less than you originally anticipated; just make sure you know that before hand and know what you’re getting into so you don’t promise your CIO $1M in savings only to spend $950k getting there.

While Siebert’s original comments were limited to the savings associated with a 10-to-15-cent reduction per kilowatt-hour (resulting in estimated savings of between $219,000 and $328,500 for this particular project), Siebert agrees that any enterprise virtualization project requires a financial investment up front. “ROI will occur over time,” according to Siebert, “and will be a big factor in offsetting the costs of the project.” But the Virtual Data Center blogger Alan Murphy insists that savings can be misleading, a virtual “red herring” that drives customers to adopt virtualization under the mistaken impression that the technology amounts to free money.

Decreased power consumption is not the only way to save on utilities. As Bridget Botelho reported a few weeks ago, utility companies now offer rebate incentives to data centers that adopt power-saving virtualization technologies. Apparently, though, few adopters have cashed in on these rebates because of some loopholes.

Other data center changes that accompany virtualization projects can also contribute to power-related savings. Jacinda Duffy, a network administrator at Ecom Atlantic Inc., tells us that when her organization virtualized its data center six months ago, it brought in a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) company to diagnose the airflow in its server room. After determining that hot air from the ceiling actually flowed back into the server room on weekends, HVAC technicians redirected the ceiling airflow to alleviate the room’s cooling demands. As a result, the settings on the company’s cooling units’ thermostats were adjusted to a higher temperature. Finally, after having consolidated its servers, Ecom Atlantic decided to space them out to allow for a more efficient airflow between servers. While it has only been a few months with the room’s new layout, Duffy anticipates some “significant savings in the near future.”

If you are cultivating your own green data center savings, we’d like to hear about your experience. Feel free to drop us a line and let us know how you are doing it.

2  Comments on this Post

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  • Kennyo
    We've found that the payback on virtualization has a variety of components - and should be treated as a medium- to long-term initiative. Consider that a consolidation initiative might take 9-18 months. And, even if you remove unused machines afterwards (which will save on power) the depreciation of those machines is still on your books for 1-3+ years afterwards. So the entire benefit of the initiative might not be reached for 3-4 years after it's initiated. I have a brief analysis at
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  • Michael Cassisi
    Before taking on a full blown Data Center initiative and trying to save money, first do an analysis and prioritize your initiatives based on dollar returned, time frame to see the return, dollar invested and time invested. Some savings can be seen from carrier, tax, city and goverment incentives without lifting a finger. The idea is to first establish a baseline on what you are spending and then set a goal and work towards that goal.
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