Crime Lab Saves Energy Costs By Turning Up Heat in the Data Center

IT Roadmap speakers will share tips on green IT, virtualization and building resilient data centers.

There's plenty of evidence that turning up the temperature in data centers is both cost-effective and safe, but many IT shops are still reluctant to take the plunge. CIO Joseph Tait of NMS Labs in Pennsylvania admits "it was an uncomfortable decision" when his IT team raised the thermostat from 68 to 73 degrees Fahrenheit.

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But cost and environmental concerns had spurred a company-wide green initiative at NMS, a "CSI"-like crime lab near Philadelphia, and reducing HVAC costs was one of the top priorities. NMS started implementing its green initiative last year, and the project will ultimately include virtualization in the data center and a solar power system to provide 30% of the company's power.  

"Who doesn't want to reduce costs?" Tait says. "[We started] this before the economy even tanked."

Tait is one of many IT executives who will be sharing their stories and best practices at Network World's IT Roadmap Conference & Expo in Philadelphia next week, one of 10 such events being held in various U.S. locations throughout 2009.

NMS Labs handles clinical toxicology and forensic testing, often for criminal cases. It's not as glamorous as "CSI" but "it's interesting, certainly," Tait says. "We get everything from blood work resulting from a run-of-the-mill DUI stop all the way up to DNA evidence under a murder victim's fingernails."

NMS has about 75 scientific instruments, 50 servers and 350 computers overall. Powering down devices that don't need to be on 24 hours a day has helped save energy, as have other initiatives, including upgrades to refrigeration, UPS and generator systems; video teleconferencing; automated power management systems; and using efficient light bulbs.

NMS has cut electricity costs by roughly 15% to 20% and has more cost-saving projects on the way.

The company is planning a solar panel project that could provide 25% to 30% of its power by next year. With tax incentives, the project is a no-brainer, according to Tait.

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Inside the data center, upgraded cooling equipment and virtualization will play key roles. Tait is building a new data center that will replace four out-of-date air conditioning units with two larger ones. He is also phasing out older servers and planning to virtualize new ones that replace them.

"We've got about 50 servers in our data center and we're thinking virtualization can cut that in half," he says.

Tait is hoping a smaller number of servers, with virtualization, will lower his power needs and simplify management.

"Simplify and standardize is a good strategic plan for any IT department," he says. "What we've got here is a very complicated and customized environment that over the years was built into a messy bird's nest full of stuff."

While NMS is a relatively small company with 225 employees and two facilities within a mile and a half of each other, IT Roadmap attendees will also hear from Terry Harris, former CTO of De Lage Landen (DLL), a global financial services firm. Harris will discuss building resilient, dynamic data centers, and a DLL project that consolidated the company's data centers from five to two, one in the United States and another in Europe.

Key technologies for the consolidation project included VMware virtualization for x86 servers, IBM Power virtualization, and EMC's Symmetrix Remote Data Facility (SRDF) disaster recovery replication software.

DLL wanted two sites separated in distance to avoid the possibility of a regional disaster shutting down both data centers. "We wanted multiple replication and failover scenarios. With SRDF we could replicate over a long distance," Harris says. "In order to accomplish that, we had to install a global high-speed wide-area network connecting the two data centers."

Harris left DLL in January and became an infrastructure architecture consultant with Synthes, a medical device company in West Chester, Penn. Synthes is not consolidating data centers but is designing a similar "twin center" concept in an effort to ensure resiliency and become more responsive to business needs, Harris says.

In the years after Sept. 11, 2001, businesses are paying much greater attention to availability and resiliency in their IT infrastructures, he says.

"You're obligated to improve the resilience of your infrastructure," Harris says. "At the same time you're improving your resilience, you can also make it more dynamic by leveraging real-time infrastructure computing concepts, the ability to provision services and tear down services very quickly in response to business needs. By making your infrastructure more resilient and dynamic, that helps your IT department become a business enabler."

Another speaker at IT Roadmap will be Tom Amrhein, the CIO of Forrester Construction in Maryland, who will discuss managed services, software-as-a-service and cloud computing.

Forrester Construction is using managed services for VoIP and application management, and contracts with Iron Mountain for off-site backup, retention and storage. Amrhein will discuss how various outsourcing models can help offload IT tasks that don't differentiate the business, and let the IT department "shift resources to tasks that make our business more competitive and better serve our customers," he said.

This story, "Crime Lab Saves Energy Costs By Turning Up Heat in the Data Center" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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