Going Green Through Computer Virtualization

At work, I often see lots of servers being under utilized because they have a dedicated application running on them. It seems like a waste since many of these server machines aren’t being fully used to their full potential as many of the applications only have a few users on at a time. There are ways to save money at your work and also conserve energy by using few server machines.

Server Room

A concept that has been getting popular as computer get faster and have large hard drives is virtualization. The basic idea behind virtualization is that a virtual computer can take up part of an existing computer and have no knowledge of other possible virtual computers on the same machine. What’s even nicer is that you can run multiple operating systems on the same computer. There can be an instance of Linux on a Windows box or vice versa. There can even run different size processors on the same machine.

This probably seems a little techie for most people, but it’s not hard to see how you can really save money. One nice thing with computers is as the capacity of a hard drive increases, the cost per GB of memory actually decreases. There is an upper bound, but this means you can actually buy a much larger hard drive at a cheaper cost to a few smaller ones with the same capacity. This means a single server machine has enough space to hold several applications instead of a single server for each application. This is especially useful with other applications that only have a small user-base.

I currently work in a lab that is also a server room. The temperatures must be below 60 degrees in order to prevent the servers from overheating. Imagine how much your company can save by choosing virtualization. A smaller room could now be used as there are fewer servers. This could drastically increase savings on energy by simply having a smaller room to now cool. Time can also be saved because you now only have to make system updates on few machines.

While virtualization is only available free on the Linux operating system, server machines are usually better off without having Windows on them. Linux contains far less overhead that Windows making it a smarter choice for a server OS.

Next time the idea of buying new servers comes up in your office, remember computer virtualization. It could save your company tons of money and cut back on your energy usage that will help contribute to a cleaner environment.

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  1. Virtualization is definitely the way to go. I work in software development, and have about 100 different configurations virtualized on 4 servers. Of course, they can’t all be running at once, but I can comfortably run 4 configs simultaneously on one server. Meaning I use 25% of the resources I used to.

    Our beefier servers can run 10 or more configs simultaneously. Talk about cost savings!

    The Green Routines last blog post..How to Green Your Coffee at Work

  2. Sometimes it’s not about having the best server to cater to our needs. In fact, some of the most basic things which we can do is like deleting off the junk mails and avoid running 2 –3 program at the same thing which I believe takes up the server resources.

    green blogs last blog post..Sustainable Websites – Green!

  3. I agree green blog. Sometimes for everyday computer use, people just need to have common sense. There is no reason to have multiple programs and browsers running on a computer at a time.

    Servers on the other hand usually have application that have to be running at all times so it’s not always possible to just stop them. That where virutalization is handy as it reduces the amount of actual server machines required. Even though one server may be taking on a much larger load, it doesn’t require many servers to all be plugged in and wasting energy.

    Thanks for the continue quality comments. Keep them coming :)

    • Luke
    • September 19th, 2008

    Another thing to consider is the type of Processor in the servers. Newer chips often have improvements to lower power consumption. For instance, Intel’s core 2 duo line (low end servers and desktops) consume less power than older Pentium 4 chips and often support speedstep. Some servers cannot run with frequency changes that speedstep does, but others can. This means the CPU will slow down when it’s not being used as much.

    Most modern operating systems including Windows, Linux and FreeBSD support power management. This tip doesn’t make much sense for virtualized systems, but in cases you cannot do so, it could help.

    AMD has PowerNow technology which does the same thing.

  4. Would the blade server be the same idea. Upgrade part not whole server. Use only what you need so it is more efficent.

  5. Hello!
    i just found your blog and this post in particular caught my attention,
    that’s just what we’re working for!
    virtualization is the way to reduce costs not only because you rely on 1 server instead of 100 PCs, but also because you can buy cheaper Thin Clients, that consume less energy, and costs less in terms of waste!

    Drop a comment in my email please, i’d like to know what you think about it!

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