SMU Network Services Team Reduces Energy Consumption with Virtualization

The Samuel Merritt University Network Services team has implemented a new "Virtual Environment" to house server systems. Virtualization is a process where operating systems instances exist in a software environment rather than being directly attached to a single server hardware system. Put simply, this means "Less Servers in the Server Room".  Anyone who has had the opportunity to visit the data center in previous years on a warm summer's day would be immediately struck by the sound of dozens upon dozens of cooling fans and air conditioning units, not to mention the heat given off by over thirty servers.

With Virtualization, physical server machines can be "virtualized". This process is made possible using VMware ESX Server 3.5, advanced networking, shared storage, and a chassis filled with blade servers. VMware enables an administrator to convert existing physical hoses to "virtual hosts", this eliminating the need for the server computer hardware the system formerly occupied.

When a host "goes virtual", it exists in a software environment supported by hardware that is more energy efficient. Shared storage for the virtual machines or "VMs" greatly reduces the need for spinning hard disks for each individual server. Blade servers, which support the VMware ESX cluster, are mounted in a chassis. This highly efficient configuration allows hardware components that would normally be duplicated many times in individual server computers, to be shared. These include power supply, networking, and cooling components. This sharing of hardware components greatly reduces power consumption and in turn keeps the data center cooler. Keeping a room full of servers from reaching into the upper 80's on a warm day can consume a LOT of electricity.

Statistics gathered by independent research firms have shown that:

  • Every server virtualized saves 7000kWh of electricity annually, or about $700 in energy costs.
  • 4 tons of CO2 are eliminated for every server virtualized, the equivalent to taking 1.5 cars off the highway
  • Improve server utilization rates from 5-15% to 60-80%. Running fewer, highly utilized servers frees up space and power.



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