Vic govt. arm puts blade to power use

Sustainability Victoria to cut its power consumption in half
Written by Scott Mckenzie, Contributor

Sustainability Victoria expects to slash its energy use by more than 50 percent with the implementation of IBM BladeCenter servers in its new office in Melbourne.

The organisation, which partners with the state government and individual businesses to encourage Victorians to use resources more efficiently, practised what it preached with a drastic revamp of its server room when it moved to a single location in October 2006.

Jan Reiher, Sustainability Victoria knowledge and ICT manager, told ZDNet Australia the adoption of the blade servers and better management tools would enable it to cut its yearly power consumption from well over 100,000 kW-h to 40,000 kW-h.

Jan Reiher

A review of its energy use by a third party prior to the move revealed that Sustainability Victoria's IT infrastructure consumed up to 75 percent of its electricity usage across three sites. The server room on its own accounted for 60 percent of the total.

To minimise energy usage in the datacentre being built, Sustainability Victoria reduced the number of servers from 30 to 13 (64-bit) blades in two stages. It had previously deployed "lots and lots of racks" to run two platforms, she said.

The initial move cut the number of servers to 20, while the introduction of a single platform reduced the number to 13.

Reiher said the deployment was radical, but very exciting. It's all about a better way to manage the use of energy and not just saved space in the datacentre, she added. "We have to limit the energy input which means that we have to re-think the way servers are used."

The ability to intelligently manage server usage, as well as a reduction in overall heat due to fewer servers, will not only slash power consumption but result in lower ongoing costs for the datacentre, according to Reiher. Using IBM management tools, for example, Sustainability Australia is able to track the energy usage of each blade. The organisation is also able to reduce the power consumption of non-critical servers at night and on weekends.

Being able to manage the heat is a big plus for Sustainability Victoria. It means the organisation is able to install a smaller air conditioning system in its revamped datacentre to keep the servers cool. Reiher said air conditioners are a major source of power consumption for organisations.

Out with the old
The move to the new office last year presented the organisation with a challenge in more ways than one. As well as the server room re-design, Sustainability Victoria -- formed in October 2005 -- had to merge IT systems and platforms of two predecessor organisations.

The organisation was in the process of "moving around 40 to 50 applications -- including document systems, Web applications and GIS Mapping -- to the new server environment". Reiher said it expects to complete the migration by mid to late February.

Everything from its former offices had to be dismantled and moved to the new premises over a weekend to ensure there was no interruption with the old platform, she said.

Once it had the old platform bedded-down and working, Sustainability Victoria, in conjunction with independent IBM consultants IQT Systems and business partner Southern Cross Computing Services, began migrating the duplicated servers into a single technology environment.

"Our objective is for a server a day to be closed," Reiher said. "We have built [configured] the servers and implemented the IBM management system, and we are moving the applications now."

Sustainability Victoria is also looking into virtualisation technology for further server consolidation and more efficient utilisation of its resources, according to Reiher.

For her the major benefit is the maximum utilisation of each server -- using the same amount of energy -- without additional heat being produced. She spoke of up to 80 percent server utilisation as opposed to around 20 percent -- confirmed in actual tests by the organisation -- on the old servers.

In addition to the blades, the new datacentre includes an IBM System Storage DS4700 storage area network (SAN) and an IBM tape back-up library. Of the SAN, Reiher said it was new for the organisation and "quite a bit of work".

"Data is critical to our organisation. Our future data demands are high so it's important that we can manage any extension easily. It [the SAN] gives us greater flexibility to grow."

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