Originating Author: G Berton Latamore
Snapshot on a page
The 30-person IT department of Berry College (http://www.berry.edu/) a four-year liberal arts college with 1,700 students and 480 employees (of which nearly all are users of the campus IT network and applications), decided to reexamine its operations and minimize its ecological impact. This was an internally generated project, not prompted by the school administration, and motivated both by a desire to “go green” and to eliminate waste in operations to provide better service at less cost says William Souder, Director and Information Security Officer for the institution. It also took advantage of the need to replace aging IT equipment on the data center floor to modernize its operations and architecture both for improved efficiency and elimination of single points of failure.
Original System Snapshot
IT is organized into network operations, enterprise systems including ERP and desktop support, and telecommunications, which provisions both fibre and copper wire throughout the campus. Each of these groups is headed by a director, and these three executives report directly to CIO Timothy Farnham. Major applications include ERP, the business system, and email. The college hosts its own Internet connectivity and Web services.
Berry College had several issues it wanted to address with this project, including:
- Power, cooling and data center management was decentralized and inefficient.
- Five-to-seven-year old hardware was showing its age.
- The data center had inefficient cooling that was not Estar compliant.
- Old Nortel Layer 3 equipment was no longer necessary for the new network environment.
- Single switch/dual switching network structure had single point of failure issue.
Business case for going green
The key aspects of the business case for the project were:
- Save money on power.
- Centralize data center management to reduce staff load.
- Decrease number of boxes on the data center floor and power and cooling demands, increasing the life of the present facility.
- Aging equipment was reaching the end of its useful life and adding to bottom-line costs through inefficient operations.
- All redesign and equipment purchase were made on the basis of intensive studies of total operating costs, heat load and power consumption.
Berry College considered alternatives as follows:
- Intel, dual core, four-way servers were considered, but AMD Opteron 880 series boxes were found to be more energy efficient, outperforming the Intel systems while using less power. Therefore, Opteron was chosen based on better TCO despite their higher initial price tag.
- The HP 9400 series 10 Gigabit Ethernet backbone was also considered.
Berry College developed a strategy that recognized when it comes to energy efficiency, there is no silver bullet, rather small steps together can yield bigger paybacks. The college replaced the aging cooling system with new cooling units with a combined capacity equal to the eventual total data center heat load when the project is finished in two years, rather than buying just enough cooling for the present and adding more capacity as demand grows. The other components of Berry's strategy include:
- Retain all servers and other equipment that were still under warranty. This was critical because IT had purchased two new servers just before the green project was started.
- Virtualize servers using VMware to stop server population growth and allow applications to share hardware, which reduced the server population from about 61 boxes to about 20 Opteron 880 series systems.
- Migrate from internal storage to a virtualized SAN using one EMC Clarion 3 hosting 9 Tbytes.
- Create a three-tiered storage architecture with 3 Tbytes in tier 1 on the fibre channel, all oither live data including SQL dumps in tier 2 and a replicator with a deduplicator for backup at the college's second campus, four miles from the main campus, as tier 3.
- Install a new 10 Gigabit network backbone, selected in part for energy efficiency.
- Move backup to the SAN and replicate through the Fibre Channel to keep replication separate from main network traffic, improving performance.
- Upgrade the IP network backbone from 1 GB to 10 GB.
- Increase lights-out capabilities in data center to allow centralized management.
- Redesign air flow from the HVAC and replace inefficient cooling units. A new enclosed HVAC system using chilled water in summer and freon (due to the problem of water freezing) in winter was selected to provide cooling at the lowest cost. Two HVACs were installed, one for the UPS area and the other for the data center. They are run by automated Prolifics thermostats that automatically shifts the system between cycles and can be monitored remotely over the Internet.
- Replace the existing single switch network fabric with dual physical switches linked to ah HP Pro Curve.
- Move from an APC power infrastructure to a thin RP that delivers cleaner power and is more energy efficient.
Berry quantified the following benefits from the project:
- Cut cooling load from about 6.5 tons of heat to 3 tons. The cooling is so efficient now that the AC in the data center shuts down sometimes because it is not needed.
- Cut energy costs, improving the operational budget.
- Replace aging equipment with modernized, more efficient systems before the data center experiences a failure.
- Improve IT's image with the school administration as a proactive, forward-thinking organization.
- Save money on the IT operational budget, helping the college operate on its limited resources.
In addition, increasingly students, faculty and other employees are making decisions based on environmental responsibility factors and Berry is substantially more attractive in this context.
Berry has identified the following next steps for the project:
One of the most compelling aspects of this project is Berry's long term view and the support it has received from senior college management. This effort is not viewed as a one-time effort but rather the organization has a vision and a roadmap for green. Next steps include:
- Add a total desktop management solution that ties into V-Pro to increase efficiencies and decrease costs of work orders and other operations.
- Budget a new review and replacement cycle in three-to-five years, by which time its present systems will be aging and new technologies will have created further efficiencies.
- The director of telecommunications and director of network operations are considering moving to VoIP to eliminate the college's Avaya PBX, not because of any problem with the Avaya's performance but because it is one of the largest boxes in the data center.
The "forklift upgrade" approach Berry College used is expensive upfront, according to Souder, so organizations should be sure they need to do this and will achieve ROI from the improved operations and that they have the funding and backing from senior management before undertaking such a project.
In addition, organizations should either be sure staff is motivated to master new technologies such as VMware themselves or, if they are not, consider hiring a consultant to put the system together. But if the consultant route is chosen, understand the costs and secure financing before making commitments. A one-person consulting shop cannot do it alone.
Finally, make sure financing is adequate to sustain the project and that it is not funded as a “one off” that then lacks operating funds to continue. Green is an ongoing initiative and planned improvements should be budgeted and communicated to management. This may require developing a charge-back system, which will require an understanding of how the project will impact various operating groups in the organization.
Overall, Wikibon believes this was a well conceived effort, and the IT group as a whole showed itself to be open to new ideas and methods and willing to change its practices when it saw clear benefits to the larger organization and society as a whole. Furthermore, making this an ongoing effort and budgeting for the next major upgrade of technologies and methodologies planned for three-to-five years in the future shows a commendable foresight and discipline.
The college has purposely not publicized the IT green initiative in part because it is still in progress, Souder says. The IT group has done a lot with its limited resources and combined good ecological citizenship with real operational savings that will provide a positive ROI over the lifetime of the investment. However, the IT administration does not regard this as unusual. For them it is just good operational strategy in the new millennium.
Wikibon feels Berry is missing an opportunity in that some marketing behind the initiative is warranted. Green IT projects with real metrics are few and far between and Berry College has an opportunity to provide thought leadership to the general business community and specifically within the secondary education environment. This is a story that needs to be more aggressively told.
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