CSUEB Sees More Green with Less Hardware, Lower Power Requirements and PG&E Rebates

Organizations are challenged with the increasing consumption and cost of power to sustain hardware within the datacenter. With the cost of power increasing 400% for datacenters over the last 10 years, one would think datacenters should somehow curtail their consumption, especially when many datacenters are reluctant to deploy new servers just because of the associated power requirements and costs. Since building a new datacenter or expanding power capacity is out of the question for most organizations, they must quickly implement some form of longer term eco-friendly power management solution.

Consuming large amounts of power primarily become a problem when the amount of power needed to keep production applications fully operational approaches or exceeds the amount of power coming into the datacenter. This is exactly what happened at California State University, East Bay (CSUEB). The amount of power consumed was 67 kVA and the maximum amount it had available was only 75 kVA with no ability to deliver more. Making things worse, CSUEB found out it would, within 6 months, exceed the maximum allowed.  

This changed thanks to the ingenuity and forward-thinking of a current CSUEB student, Jonathon Taylor. Taylor was working on a research paper that he presented to CSUEB that was based on the idea of making their existing datacenter more efficient and green. Jonathon recommended that virtualizing datacenter resources was the key to reducing data center power consumption. Since Jonathon actually used CSUEB as a reference model, the plan was quickly approved by CSUEB CIO John Charles. Taylor’s plan resulted in power consumption being reduced by 26%, the removal of excessive hardware and the ability of CSUEB to expand the application base. Examples of savings CSUEB has seen as a result of implementing Taylor’s plan included:

  • 25 servers were shut down and replaced by 3 Sun Fire 4600 servers running VMware
  • 17 NAS servers were migrated to a single 3PAR S400 with 92 disks and 43TB of virtual storage
  • The deployment of 21 new applications
  • It plans to deploy 15 new applications soon
  • SAN equipment was migrated to the 3PAR storage

As spinning disks account for a great percentage of power consumption within datacenters, CSUEB acknowledges that the 3PAR storage equipment was a key component in the virtualization strategy that drastically impacted power consumption. “What prompted the decision to go with 3PAR was the fact that 3PAR does thin provisioning,” explained Jonathon Taylor, “and that allows CSUEB to save a lot of energy.”

Leveraging 3PAR’s dedicate-on-write capabilities, thin provisioning allows the CSUEB data center to allocate as much logical capacity to an application as is needed over its lifetime. Then physical capacity is drawn from a common pool of purchased storage on an as-needed basis. This enabled CSUEB to drastically reduce the amount of storage required of the original configuration.

Wikibon, which produced this case study, also performed another detailed case study on the savings from virtualization and thin provisioning, and found that the average ratio between virtual storage and real storage was 4:1. Said another way, for every 5 terabytes of traditional storage, just one terabyte of 3PAR storage was needed. As an additional perk, 3PAR’s virtualization and thin provisioning technologies are recognized by Pacific Gas and Energy (PG&E) as energy efficient. This qualifies users of the technology for PG&E energy rebates that provided even further revenue for CSUEB since it encouraged CSUEB to apply for and receive the rebate incentive while also realizing an overall costs savings of more than $30,000 from the decreased energy usage as a result of using the 3PAR equipment.

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