Friday, March 14, 2008

Greener Server Virtualization

I am the Architect over a project to deploy ESX 3.5 in our environment. The deployment consists of 45 dual slot quad core blades with 24GB RAM EACH. Most people in technology understand why consolidating servers in a virtualization platform is a good idea. The concept is one that inherently saves power, rack space, and time. I want to touch on some of the new features of virtualization and some new or existing products and processes which take server virtualization to the next level in reducing power consumption.

1. Servers. Specifically The HP C Class Blade servers. These servers have built-in power reduction features that significantly reduce the power consumption of the servers.

The first feature intelligently shuts down power supplies and maintains peak load in a 16 blade enclosure with only 5 power supplies at over 90% efficiency.

The C Class blade enclosure also uses 10 miniature jet engine fans to reduce power consumption and move more air. These fans are hot-swappable. I hear HP has dozens of patents on these fans.

Virtual Connect helps companies reduce the cables required to run a blade enclosure while still enabling robust versatility on the network and SAN. This technology reduces the overall port count for network and SAN significantly in your datacenter.

Overall the C Class blades should reduce your overall power consumption by 40% when compared to similar rack mount servers. HP offers power monitoring software in the Onboard Administrator which allows you to monitor the power usage of the enclosure.

2. Deduplication. Deducplication technology when applied to your primary and backup storage can greatly reduce the storage required to run and backup virtual machines. Deduplication in conjunction with server virtualization can reduce your data footprint by up to 90%. I am very intrigued by these numbers and the technology. I am interested to see how dedupe impacts VM performance, and the real world reduction of data. In the mean time, I am keeping a close eye on this technology, especially NetApps implementation.

3. Vi (AKA ESX Lite, embedded). The new Lite version of ESX is capable of running on a 64MB flash drive. Combined with blades, you can remove one of the largest consumers of power from the server.

4. Distributed Power Management (DPM) - DPM works in conjunction with Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) to power off unneeded servers in an ESX Farm. It can power servers off and on as needed to conserve power when resources are not needed.

5. Disaster Recovery Tools - I have been testing PlateSpin's PowerConvert for disaster recovery of virtual machines. PowerConvert allows you to back up a physical or virtual server to a powered off VM at a secondary site. On a scheduled basis it continues to run on the primary server sending differentials to the backup server while it is powered off. Since the backup software updates the backup VM while it is powered off, your DR hardware can be utilized to run non-production servers. This eliminates the need for dedicated DR hardware.

Summary: Virtualization is definitely a tool that when combined with the right hardware and software can assist your company with its green initiatives. Virtualization is not the entire story, and should be used as a point solution which is part of a larger green initiative.

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