Virtualization and the Public Sector: “Greening” Government IT Saves Energy and Aids Compliance

Executive orders and “green IT” directives have trickled steadily out of Washington, D.C. in the past few years, culminating most recently with Executive Order 13514.

Signed by President Obama in October 2009, EO 13514 builds on earlier legislation such as the “Green the Capitol” initiative, and, according to the White House, “…expands the energy reduction and environmental requirements of Executive Order 13423 by making reductions of greenhouse gas emissions a priority of the Federal government, and by requiring agencies to develop sustainability plans focused on cost-effective projects and programs.”

These sustainability goals also require Federal agencies to take further steps to ensure that IT purchases are energy efficient or otherwise environmentally friendly.

And there’s a good reason for this!

As the largest consumer of energy in the U.S. economy, the Federal government has a sustainability crisis on its hands. Not only do old government buildings have energy upgrade limitations tied to preservation restrictions they often can’t support the energy demands that the government puts on its IT infrastructure and the data centers where it resides. That business model is not sustainable.

With the acceptance and accessibility of virtualization technology, Federal agencies are reaping the benefits of consolidating data center servers, resulting in in increased efficiencies, better resource utilization, reducing and avoiding costs and less energy consumption.

Virtualization Causes Savings, Helps Compliance

Server virtualization can potentially reduce agency data center energy usage by as much as 90%. How?

From the data center to the desktop – most computers and servers are only actually operating at 5-15% of their capacity. But the surprising fact is that most computer hardware consumes 60-90% of the normal workload power even when idle. So if servers consume similar amounts of energy while idle as when in use, increasing their productivity is imperative to sustainability and energy efficiency goals.

Virtualization software, such as VMware vSphere, enables servers to operate at full capacity – reducing the number of machines needed, and by extension, energy consumption and space requirements.

Case in point – the U.S. House of Representatives, who was grappling with an aging data center that simply couldn’t sustain itself and the 435 House members, staff and Web sites that it serves – was able to consolidate 400 physical servers to less than 100 using VMware technologies. The resulting energy reductions (not just of the machines, but the associated cooling and ventilation costs) was in the range of at least 45 percent!

And it’s not just energy that virtualization saves – it’s also positively impacting the environment. Gartner estimates that 1.2 million workloads run in VMware virtual machines, which represents an aggregate power savings of about 8.5 billion kWh—more electricity than is consumed annually in all of New England for heating, ventilation and cooling.

Just the Beginning

The House of Representatives isn’t alone in realizing the benefits of “green IT”, VMware also works with all 15 Executive Branch agencies, all DoD agencies, services and joint commands, and throughout both Legislative and Judicial branches.

But, as always, there is still more to do, industry analysts estimate that only 15 percent of servers in the world are virtualized and with government directives, the rising cost and demands put on energy sources and the need for cost savings.

Building a Picture of Energy and Tax Dollar Savings

So just how much energy and tax payer dollars can be saved through virtualization? This handy “Green IT Calculator” lets you measure energy savings, potential cost reductions and the environmental impact (in terms of trees planted or cars taken off the road and CO2 emissions) of server virtualization – based on the number of servers virtualized.

Government agencies can also calculate the total cost of ownership (TCO) and potential savings based on their particular infrastructure and objectives using this Virtualization TCO / ROI Calculator.

Additional Resources

Leave a Comment

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply