Friday, July 17, 2009

HP's Data Center Consolidation

HP recently completed a data center consolidation to upgrade infrastructure and reduce operating expenses. Although the focus was on operating efficiency, this still makes an excellent green case study, since a function that is inefficient is likely to be wasting natural resources. 

HP IT Background
In 2005 when the new CIO, Randy Mott, joined HP, he found that IT had grown topsy-turvy in response to HP's culture of decentralization. Established by Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, HP’s philosophy was to nurture innovation by establishing small entrepreneurial teams. This decentralized approach caused an explosion of data centers and local server rooms as each unit developed its own computing infrastructure.
Unfortunately decentralized IT did little to encourage broader company innovation. Worse yet, HP missed the opportunity to achieve economies-of-scale for IT that its size should have provided. Another problem was that it was difficult to integrate data among the disparate systems that could have enabled greater synergy among independent business units.

Recognizing that the chaos presented an opportunity, Randy and his team consolidated 85 regional data centers and 370 small sites into six state-of-the-art data centers. In addition to reducing telecommunications costs by half and the number of servers to manage by 40%, an impressive 60% reduction in energy consumption was also achieved.

Green Mindset = Operational Efficiency
To illustrate that green is not in conflict with operational efficiency, let’s suppose that green computing had been the primary driver. Energy efficient equipment and power supplies would have been a focus.

When reviewing the eighty-five data centers and hundreds of sites with servers, the team would still have uncovered there was redundancy and overlap in computing leading to servers that on average were grossly under-utilized. The best way to save money and conserve natural resources is to eliminate unused parts and then improve the efficiency for the remainder.

One benefit of smaller sites is to avoid specialized cooling, which is huge energy user in a data center. Nevertheless, consolidation with cooling was more energy efficient. With high speed telecommunications network available it was practical to centralize functions that once needed to be local. Green approach would have realized the same outcomes.

Another area that IT emphasized was data storage. Individual data marts were consolidated and purge / archive functions implemented for systems. Again the driver was cost savings, but a green lens on the data problem would have come to the same conclusion.

Despite the original driver, there are lessons to apply for green oriented projects:

  1. It may be difficult to see the total costs if a function is decentralized and difficult to apply new methods to enhance operational efficiency.
  2. Sustainability enables cost savings since a goal of sustainability is reduce, reuse and recycle.
  3. Operational efficiency is a good way to get started on green for those companies focused on expenses.
Related Posts
    Read part 2 on office consolidation and its negative impact to commutes >>

    No comments:

    Post a Comment