Countdown to Copenhagen 2009: Virtualisation

How virtualisation can green up the IT landscape

Computerworld continues its Copenhagen Countdown — a look at ways ICT can help series by taking a look a virtualisation.

The 2009 Smart 2020 report, Enabling the low carbon economy in the information age, published by The Climate Group and the Global eSustainability Initiative (GeSI), estimates that technology can deliver about 15 per cent reduction in global emissions by 2020 with a net benefit of around 7.8 per cent, taking into account the growth of IT and the emissions associated with IT.

The Report findings indicate the significant role ICTs could play in reducing emissions in other sectors of the economy, such as smart motor systems, smart logistics, smart buildings and smart grids, and quantified these in terms of carbon dioxide emission savings and cost savings. Unlocking the potential of clean technology in the ICT sector is a critical step towards a low carbon future. The growing support of clean tech investors and IT innovators from Australia and around the world places the IT industry in a lead position to combat global warming.

Recent statistics released by VMware lists Australia as the highest user of virtualisation software in the world. Virtualisation technology allows companies to consolidate, rationalise, dramatically reduce the number of servers being used and allow the use of thin client computers to access work systems in a secure way.

To maximise the potential of carbon reduction within the IT industry, chief technology officer for CSC Australia and Asia and National Director of AIIA, Bob Hayward, recommends virtualisation as the key technology organisations should adopt if looking to cut energy cost and reduce their carbon footprint.

“The overall impact is that there should be higher virtualisation and fewer pieces of equipment. This should reduce energy costs,” he said. “Virtualisation puts a layer of software between the hardware and the application and makes the entire machine think it has one piece of equipment all to itself, whether it’s a laptop, sever or desktop machine, but in fact, it is sharing it with others.”

The technology allows organisations to optimise their resources, said Alison O'Flynn, director of sustainability at Fujitsu. “The ability to virtualises your server and, if possible, your desktop estate will deliver significant savings and reducing your server estate will mean a lower data centre bill and act as an effective stepping stone towards the cloud,” she said.

Virtualisation was picked by Hayward and O'Flynn as the key technology that will deliver the fastest and most beneficial result in reducing an organisation’s energy usage and lowering its level if green house gas emissions.

Virtualisation can be achieved through three ways:

  • Network virtualisation
  • Storage virtualisation
  • Server virtualisation.

Network virtualisation involves combining resources in a network by splitting up the available bandwidth into channels. The idea is that network virtualisation hides the real complexity of the network by separating it into manageable parts. Storage virtualisation requires the merging of physical storage from multiple network storage devices into a single storage device that is managed from a central server, while server virtualisation hides the number and identity of server resources (the physical servers, processors, and operating systems) from server users. The aim of server virtualisation is to avoid having to manage all the details of server resources.

This technology is popular green IT choice for many organisations because it yields immediate results: It reduces the amount of equipment used, freeing up funds and the opening up office space, with the ultimate result of lowering energy usage. Hayward explains that by reducing the number of servers, organisations can decommission and remove excess or surplus servers that are no longer in use. This will reduce electricity costs and is a green technology strategy that can be utilise by both large and medium sized organisations.

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