Could virtualisation become a key weapon in the war to reduce power consumption and thus carbon emissions? An intriguing announcement from US energy company PG&E (Pacific Gas and Electric) seems to suggest so.
Speaking at the international user conference of virtualisation specialist VMware, VM World, a representative of the company, outlined a new scheme where PG&E will pay data centre managers money for every server they unplug.
Up to a ceiling of $4m per organisation, a customer could expect between $750 and $1,350 back per device they disable. The idea means the utility company would pay up to 50% of the set up costs for users who want to use virtualisation as a way to save server proliferation: the money is effectively a rebate on power you’ll save running the kit.
The offer’s only open for a limited time – until virtualisation takes off, apparently – but the energy firm says the potential total saving could be as high as 8bn kw, the equivalent of the juice all of New England uses in a year. PG&E says it has set up the project because it can save money long term if less electricity is used through having to build less generating plant and capacity.
“Virtualisation is helping our customers realise significant energy and cost savings, while addressing critical data centre capacity issues,” claims a spokesperson. In August, incidentally, PG&E outlined a scheme with Sun Microsystems where customers purchasing the latter’s more energy efficient servers also get offered cash against future bills.
Virtualisation’s supporters, which include Intel, claim that hardware can be much more efficiently used by better resource management. The problem is that it’s been an issue of great hype for some years. But IDC analyst Nathaniel Martinez believes its time may have come: “We see virtualisation not in mission-critical application areas but certainly in places like Web serving. Better power optimisation and cutting down the number of servers deployed in any part of IT will ultimately save customers money and will of course have an environmental impact.”
Martinez adds that if the average server is, as his company’s research suggests, actually in use only 28% of the time, there is patently a lot of power being wasted that could be saved. And that translates into a lot of wasted cash. IDC believes the total power and cooling bill for servers in the US stands at a $14bn a year, and may hit $50bn by the end of the decade.
Will we see such a scheme in the UK? The government’s energy review is still at an early stage, but some form of incentive to cut down power-hungry equipment seems bound to form part of any long-term green energy strategy. Will it be virtualisation-shaped? Only time – and more pushes like this – will tell.
Look here for more information on the PG&E scheme.
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