Additionally, grid computing has been proven in real-world installations, where customers have lowered capital and operating expenses through virtualization and consolidation. Grid environments typically improve the reliability and performance of commodity hardware through advanced clustering technologies and grid automation software. They save power and cooling costs by using less hardware. And they boost user productivity by maximizing availability and uptime.
Modern IT architects now apply these same grid concepts to their enterprise applications. An application grid enables system administrators to pool and allocate the runtime infrastructure so that application server instances work together to make better use of physical resources. These techniques permit BART to maximize capacity and improve reliability for its finance and HR functions.
“Our PeopleSoft applications can be deployed on multiple application servers and Web servers,” Misra explains. “They’re balanced, so if one goes down, the others take over seamlessly. It’s a critical part of the infrastructure.”
Modern and Green
Virtualization also has a huge impact on efficiency by using servers more judiciously, Fersht says. By running multiple applications on the same server, average capacity can be increased to 50 percent or higher, with no loss in throughput or reliability. This results in fewer servers used, with the consequential benefits of less floor space needed, less transportation and recycling of those servers, and less manufacturing energy expended.
Of course, from an energy-use perspective, virtualization needs to be linked with consolidation and decommissioning exercises to eliminate extra equipment. Thus BART ultimately intends to shut down its mainframe environment and rely less heavily on three large air conditioning units. BART is deploying discrete rack-based cooling systems to save energy by targeting hot spots in the data center rather than cooling the entire facility. Misra says localized cooling is more efficient, and the new equipment will be easier and less expensive to maintain. “We are spending a lot of money every year maintaining our A/C systems,” he says.
Implementing more-responsible energy-management practices and consolidating applications onto a shared grid of server capacity will reduce energy usage by around 20 percent, he estimates. However, it will require coordination with other cost centers to gauge the true impact of these upgrades.
“Electricity is typically not part of the IT budget,” points out Misra. “Most IT departments don’t get a separate electricity bill, so it is difficult to measure exactly how much power is consumed by the data center. That’s why BART’s green initiative influences not just the IT department but many other aspects of the business.”
The take-home point is clear: when it comes to modernizing data centers and IT equipment, better hardware and software is important. But technology upgrades must be undertaken in tandem with a whole new mind-set for facilities management. Today’s modernization projects can make an organization not only more competitive but a more responsible corporate citizen.