For Data Return, one of the major, and largely unexpected, benefits of virtualization has been a reduction in cooling costs while optimizing server density needs. "When we started looking at energy efficiencies and power costs, they weren't really high on my list of things that were important," Lochhead admits. "But as we rolled it out, I started to realize how big a lever it could be."
Lochhead says that the combination of virtualization and the AMD Opteron processors' low power requirements keep power and cooling costs down, and enable the company to achieve a smaller footprint with greater rack density. Consequently, it can keep prices down—a key factor for survival in the managed-service provider marketplace.
Within the company, data center staffers have become focused on cooling and related cost issues. "The guys running the data center know exactly what's going on, so they understand we really have to maximize those finite resources, especially in the hosting business," Lochhead says. Soon after the implementation, data center staffers started gauging "how many dollars they were getting for however much cooling and power they were expending on a given server," he says.
"Virtualization fits great for that because you're maximizing your space, and you're using the CPU capacity you have in one box rather relying on 10 boxes where you're using only 10% of their CPUs," Lochhead says. "One of the guys in charge of our data center has a big spreadsheet. He did the math and concluded that depending on the type of server we're retiring, what kind of workload it has, and how many servers we can consolidate, we could save between 50% and 70% on our power and cooling bills if we were to virtualize all of our server farms."
The upshot of all this, according to Lochhead: "What we ended up with was addressing more than just the computing requirements for customers. We ended up creating a new platform for ourselves and continue to discover new ways to use virtualization in the data center. It's really becoming our primary platform."
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