EMC gets greener with IT-facilities partnership

2008 Green 15: Better cooling methods and energy efficiencies go beyond just IT's benefit

Do you want to lower your datacenter's temperatures, reduce your operating costs, and extend the life of your existing equipment? EMC datacenter services manager Ken Goodrow has some advice for you: Make friends with your facilities team.

The partnership between the datacenter and facilities teams eased a three-year renovation of EMC's 19,500-square-foot datacenter. The company virtualized its servers and data storage, then embarked on a year-long project to reconfigure its physical datacenter.

"Having a good relationship between your IT department and your facilities department is key," he said. The facilities team was already meeting regularly with EMC's energy providers, so they were able to broker a relationship that helped the datacenter team figure out how to reduce its infrastructure costs. In addition, the facilities team was already meeting regularly with equipment vendors, so they were able to point Goodrow's team in the right direction regarding IT purchases and maintenance schedules.

In turn, EMC's facilities team is taking the lessons learned from overhauling the datacenter and applying them at other departments throughout the company.

EMC's green project has saved the company an estimated $5.9 million in capital expenses and infrastructure costs, but the environmental perks are also respectable. The remodeled physical facilities coupled with the scaled-back hardware requirements have reduced CO2 emissions by an estimated 1.96 million pounds.

Subtle changes have a big effect on cooling
The datacenter makeover reduced the resources required for cooling by 64 percent while simultaneously lowering the datacenter's average temperature by 3.4 percent to 76 degrees Fahrenheit.

What created the cooler environment? Altering the hot-air plenum that runs across the ceiling. Now, hot air moves up to the ceiling plenum, then is forced into recirculation to a space under the floor, where it's water-cooled and recirculated.

A thermal imaging analysis had shown that some of the datacenter's air conditioning units were working unevenly. After putting in the new ceiling plenum in December 2007, Goodrow said, the temperature dropped as much as 10 degrees in some areas of the datacenter, as the new configuration evened out the temperatures. "That drop in temp resulted in less cooling required, which results in fewer emissions," Goodrow said.

Another simple but effective change EMC made in its datacenter was putting pillows in all its equipment cutouts. It's an inexpensive fix relative to the datacenter operation, but it reduced the datacenter temperature, Goodrow said.

Cost savings make green IT an easy pitch
Getting organizational buy-in for the project was easy because most of the changes to the datacenter promised clear benefits to EMC's bottom line. Part of the datacenter overhaul included eliminating 165 servers and replicating their functions by virtualizing 173 servers on 18 machines.

"We were looking at 173 end-of-life servers, so saying [to the finance department], 'We want to virtualize 173 servers, can you give us money for 18 physical servers?' That's a no-brainer," Goodrow said. "Then we went back and showed them the results. You've got a savings in space, a savings in cooling, and a savings in power."

He said that EMC's next budget- and environment-minded measures will focus on continued server consolidation and virtualization. In addition, EMC is exploring the possibility of setting up the lights so that they turn on and off as people walk up and down the hot and cold aisles. "This is an opportunity to apply some of those things we've learned," said Goodrow.

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