Hardware makes a play
Vendors offer products designed to generate energy savings, reduce carbon
- By Doug Beizer
- Nov 07, 2007
Computers of all sizes ? whether
servers sitting in data center racks
or desktop computers for office
workers ? drain power and generate
heat. And when their useful life is
over, they often take up landfill space.
Manufacturers are trying new technologies
and techniques to make them more
efficient and longer-lasting. Replacing
familiar rackmount servers with blade
servers is one common approach. Blade
servers are bare-bones computers, just a
few vital components on a circuit board. A
blade enclosure provides a single power
supply and cooling system for a collection
IBM Corp.'s BladeCenter integrates
servers, storage, networking and applications
into one system. The system reduces
the need for server farms and requires
fewer employees to manage them, said Tim
Dougherty, BladeCenter planning and
strategy manager at IBM.
"IBM BladeCenter is much more integrated
and energy efficient than traditional
rack-based systems," Dougherty said.
BladeCenter uses 30 percent less power
than rack-based systems, he said.
IBM isn't alone in pushing blade servers.
Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Sun
Microsystems Inc. each have their own
Government agencies considering using
blades should have a good idea of where
and how they will use the systems. Systems
can be specifically designed for high-performance
data centers or ruggedized
Systems integrators should consider
what the application requirements will be
before selecting a specific kind of blade. A
variety of processor technology server
choices are available in IBM blades including
Intel, Advance Micro Devices, IBM
Power and IBM Cell BE-based. Sun Blade
systems also support several architectures:
Sun UltraSPARC, AMD Opteron and Intel
Xeon, Solaris 10 OS, Linux, Windows and
VMware in a single common chassis.
There is also a selection of input/output
methods including Ethernet, Fibre
Channel, Internet SCSI, InfiniBand and
"This allows systems integrators to work
with the [input/output] they are already
comfortable with and best fits the deployment
environment," Dougherty said.
Storage is another key area where environmental
impact can be reduced. The
general rule of thumb is that organizations
use about 20 percent of their storage on a
Using environmentally smart storage for
the remaining 80 percent of the data helps
dramatically reduce a customer's costs,
said Bill Vass, president at Sun
Microsystems Federal Inc.
Robotic tape storage can also cut energy
costs. Unlike disk architecture, where the
storage device and media are one unit, the
media is separate from the device in tape
"This means that data that is written to a
tape cartridge that is stored within a robotic
library is consuming zero amount of
electricity," Vass said. "While the library
itself is consuming electricity, it is extremely
minimal when compared to disk storage
systems."Curb power consumption
Reducing how often an organization
replaces desktop PCs is another green
strategy. And when PCs need to be
replaced, using thin clients instead of desktops
has big environmental benefits.
Pano Logic, of Menlo Park, Calif., produces
a virtualized desktop computing
architecture that uses server-based virtualization
and relies on no software ? operating
system, firmware or applications software
? on the desktop.
Each Pano installation consists of a Pano
device on the desktop with Pano management
software and existing virtualization
technology, such as VMware ESX, installed
on a central server.
"By moving all desktop software to the
server, the Pano solution delivers a number
of benefits, including a dramatic reduction
in power consumption, a reduction in IT
complexity and cost, a superior Windows
desktop experience and the elimination of
the PC as a security risk," said Benjamin
Baer, vice president of marketing at Pano
The diminutive Pano device is designed
to have a useful life double that of a traditional
"Pano devices not only become
obsolete at a much slower rate, they are
also produced using a fraction of the
materials needed to produce a traditional
PC, Baer said. "The Pano is only 3.5
inches by 3.5 inches by 2 inches ? compared
to a traditional PC tower, which
could be made of well more than 20
times the amount of plastic and other
Sun Microsystems' thin client, the Sun
Ray Thin Client, is another example. The
Sun Ray looks and acts like a desktop. It
has a 12-year life cycle in the enterprises
versus two to three years for a PC.
The system also enables hoteling, a
trend in which mobile workers who visit
offices sporadically share offices or cubicles.
Using this approach, organizations
can substantially reduce requirements for
"Any place you go and put in your smart
card, your whole environment follows
you," Vass said. "And it only uses 4 watts
vs. 120-220 watts for a PC."
Compact hardware other than desktops
also has environmental benefits.
The HP LaserJet P1006 is the
company's smallest and most compact
laser printing system for the small office.
The printer has a new spherical toner in
a smaller toner cartridge and uses less
energy. And with HP Instant-on
Technology, a fuser technology, users can
print a first page in less than 8.5 seconds
from Powersave mode, saving as much as
50 percent in power consumption.
"The ultra-compact HP LaserJet
P1006 ships with less packaging than
previous products and is engineered to
use less energy over an extended period
of time," said Dave Lobato, environmental
program manager at HP LaserJet
Business. "This product is Energy Starqualified
and can also handle recycled
Before launching into an energy saving
project, Vass recommends systems integrators
carefully evaluate current IT
Eco-friendly isabout saving and using
assets more effectively, Vass said.
"In the near future, the CIOs will 'own'
the power budget for the IT they deploy
at the desktop and the data center," he
said. "It has to happen to drive savings
for the CFO because power is becoming
such a large part of the budget. And computer
labs, desktops, and data centers are
the biggest consumers of power per
square foot of any space in the federal
buildings."Staff writer Doug Beizer can be reached at
Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Washington Technology.