Sun’s Energy Efficiency Charge Starts At Home

Sun Microsystems is practicing what it preaches, using itself as a primary example of server consolidation and eco-friendly datacenter management policies. The company on Tuesday announced The Eco Innovation Initiative, an extension to its Eco Responsibility Initiative from 2005.

Of course, chief information officer Bob Worrall admits Sun didn’t set out to be eco-friendly as a primary goal: it was a welcomed side effect. “This project started life as a way to solve a problem most CIOs face, how to solve the budget problem,” he said to a gathering of journalists and Sun employees. “We didn’t sit around trying to find ways to cut CO2 emissions or affect climate change. It was how do we cut costs?”

Sun  started by consolidating its European datacenter. The lease on a Dutch facility was up and the company was looking to downsize. Instead, it closed the facility and moved its functions to a UK center that had extra capacity.

Sun consolidated 22 servers to four high-efficiency models for an 80 percent reduction in footprint, a 70 percent reduction in energy costs and a reduction in its electrical bill of $115,000, according to Worrall.

Next Sun focused on Santa Clara, Calif. where it maintained a 200,000 square-foot facility. After a three-month effort, the company was able to reduce that footprint to 76,000 square feet. It reduced the number of server racks from 550 to 65, resulting in a 60 percent reduction in utility costs.

The energy efficiency of Sun’s newer equipment translated to $860,000 in energy savings in nine months. It also earned the company a rebate of $1 million from Pacific Gas and Electric, the power company serving the Bay Area, and cut 876 metric tons of CO2 emissions. “You get the savings when you plug in the server. Plug it in and save the planet,” Worrall said.

By updating older systems, Sun saw a 450 percent increase in compute power with half the number of servers and a 240 percent increase in storage with one-third the number of storage devices. Sun also made changes on its desktops, deploying the Sun Ray 2 thin clients that use just four watts of power, a big drop from a typical desktop computer’s power draw.

Sun’s strategy is a four-pronged approach of sharing best practices, as developed in this consolidation, simplifying deployment, helping with migration of old applications and data and assisting in the recycling and disposal of old systems.

IDC vice president and analyst Jean Bozman said it’s typical of Sun to stress the hardware innovation element and that virtualization will be a part of these consolidation efforts. “I can see a lot of virtualization/consolidation projects combined as a single project,” she told “A lot of people use [virtualization] for consolidation. To the extent you can do that more efficiently, that’s fewer systems you have to power and cool.”

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