Green IT, virtualization top of mind at IT Roadmap

Green IT, virtualization top of mind at IT Roadmap

Citigroup virtualizes, consolidates data centers to save energy costs

Green IT and virtualization are among the hot topics to be aired at Tuesday's IT Roadmap event in New York City, where IT experts will share best practices on cutting costs and providing better services.

Users have somewhat mixed perceptions of green IT because vendors tend to over-hype products as "green."  But the move toward more efficient and, hopefully, less expensive IT processes is an unavoidable trend, say industry professionals due to speak at IT Roadmap.

Green IT is "absolutely real," says James Carney, executive vice president of data center planning at Citigroup. "The operational efficiencies and cost savings that are associated with successful green projects are what make them very useful or important to someone like Citigroup. We don't do it just to be good corporate citizens. We do it because we can optimize our cost and efficiency."

Citigroup takes a holistic view of green IT that goes beyond the company's power usage, says Michelle Erickson, who is leading a project to promote environmental sustainability in the company's global IT infrastructure. In addition to power management, goals include reducing use of paper, reducing travel, maintaining a sustainable supply chain, and educating employees.

"Green is not just about energy consumption," Erickson says. "It's also about making sure your employees have the collaboration tools necessary to work productively, efficiently as a team, and enable them to work anywhere from around the world."

At the data center level, Citigroup's green projects started a few years ago, driven largely by a tremendous increase in the number of physical servers. Citigroup had 52 data centers in 2005 and plans to reduce that to 14 by 2010, Carney says. By using virtualization, the company has also dramatically slowed down its server growth.

Virtualization is also a key technology for Davis & Gilbert, a law firm with more than 100 attorneys. CIO Lance Rea explains that server virtualization allowed the firm to create an acceptable disaster-recovery process. Just a few years ago, the firm's backup processes consisted solely of backing up to tapes and storing them at an Iron Mountain facility. Recovering from a major disaster would have taken Davis & Gilbert two weeks, and would have required shipment of backup tapes, purchasing of new servers, reinstallation of operating systems and restoration of Active Directory, Rea says. "I get the shivers just thinking about that," he says.

Now the law firm uses VMware to virtualize critical applications and replicates them to a disaster-recovery site. Besides improving uptime, Rea credits virtualization with reducing electricity use and freeing up staff to work on projects other than hardware maintenance. He says he's considering moving to a virtualized desktop environment as well.

"The coolness factor [of virtualization] from an IT standpoint is undeniable," Rea says. "It's something that, especially with VMotion, works really well and it's easy for any IT person to grasp what you can do with that."

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