Going Green

Theresa and I bought a new car recently.  It's Green.  To be specific, it is actually a colour called Aloe Green Metallic, which to me sounds like a pretentious way of saying it's green.

The car was actually available in one of seven colours, but it did not really matter, because no matter what colour we chose (Desert Sand Mica… Barcelona Red Metallic… SHEESH!) the car would still be green.

We decided to buy a hybrid, or to be more more specific, we went to the dealership to look at hybrid cars with the intention that if we could do so without too much of an increase in our monthly expenses we would do it, and we did.

Don't get me wrong… I am not a conservationist, but I am very practical; with the price of gas being what it is (when we bought the car it was $1.30/litre… now it is down to $.90/litre), we can either decide to drive less (not a viable option with our lifestyle, as well as where we live) or we can look for a more fuel efficient car.

Our car is not the only change we have made recently as a nod to the green movement.  As an independent IT consultant, trainer, and courseware designer I need several servers running at any given time; this week it is Essential Business Server 2008 (three servers), last week it was a complete deployment infrastructure (including Active Directory, System Center Configuration Manager, System Center Operations Manager, and Microsoft Deployment Toolkit – three servers plus three workstations), and a few weeks before that it was migrating from an SBS 2003 Premium infrastructure to an EBS 2008 Premium infrastructure (six servers, three workstations).  Of course I do not need to keep all of these configurations when I was finished, so all I really need is six servers and a few desktop computers and I’m set.

Of course, there are a couple of issues to consider here:

  1. Six servers with the minimum requirements for these projects would be prohibitively expensive;
  2. None of the servers in question would ever utilize more than 15% of their resources, but they were necessary nonetheless;
  3. Nine machines would increase my monthly electricity bill by $200/month; and
  4. I do not have a home office big enough to store these all if it was the best way.

There was a green solution to this conundrum: a single server that is powerful enough to virtualize all of these servers simultaneously.  It is not widely appreciated that most servers do not use all of their resources… especially in a smaller environment without excessive use.  Moore’s Law promised us that processing power would skyrocket, and indeed it has… well past the basic needs of most individuals.  A result of this is that there are huge numbers of computers and servers whose CPU are never taxed beyond 15%.  Of course we can’t purchase 20% of a CPU… but we can share the resources between servers.

The server that I decided on is a HP ProLiant DL585 G2, with four dual-core CPUs, sixteen gigabytes of RAM and six high-speed SAS hard disks – admittedly more machine than any individual server I would ever have purchased for my home… and is the single most expensive piece of equipment in the house.  It consumes more electricity than any other item (including our central air conditioner).  It generates enough heat to make a noticeable difference in the room where it resides… and it is loud.  Having stated all of that it is also the smartest purchase I have made in years.  With all of the resources that it does consume, it is less by far than the six machines I would have needed to do the same work… as much as 75% less electricity; it generates 20% of the heat that those servers would have; it takes much less space than a physical server farm would have; and as far as return on investment (ROI) the eight CPU cores average between 40 and 80% usage at any given time (when running hot).  It has more hard drives than any server I would have bought… and yet they are all being used (efficiently).

Admittedly it is bigger than any server I would have bought (My old PowerEdge 4300 was bigger and if not heavier then close) for myself, but it still took less materials to make than what I would have bought… and when the time comes (years from now) to dispose of it, aside from the fact that so much of it is recyclable, it would take up much less space in a landfill than would six machines.

I’ll say it again… I am not an environmentalist, but there are times when going green just makes sense… cars and servers are just two examples where I saved money while being planet-friendly.  How about you?

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