Volume 4, Number 30 -- August 23, 2007

Sun Brags About Its New Green Data Center

Published: August 23, 2007

by Timothy Prickett Morgan

As many expected, virtualization is driving a whole new wave of server consolidation, and every major server maker is starting to brag about their own internal IT operations and how they walk the green walk, not just talk the green talk. Sun Microsystems was one of the first of the server makers to try to raise our eco-consciousness, and did so for the self-serving reason that it wants to sell new servers to customers with lots of energy-wasteful machinery in the data center.

Sun, of course, could say the same thing about itself over the past few years, and that is why the company is revamping its data centers, consolidating down to three new data centers that are more compact, use less energy, and provide more computing throughput. And in addition to wanting to peddle new servers, storage, operating systems, and management tools to customers, Sun has also created a set of services to help customers make the green transition in their own data centers, regardless of whether or not they buy gear from Sun.

In Sun's Santa Clara, California, data center, the company has just completed the first phase of consolidation, reducing the server count from 2,177 units down to 1,240 and storage array count from 738 arrays down to 225; the rack dropped from 550 to 65 for all this gear. Obviously, servers have gotten a lot skinnier vertically and so have storage arrays, allowing such a compression. This consolidation took about three months. The new gear burns about 500 kilowatt-hours of juice, down from 2,200 kilowatt-hours, saving about $1.1 million a year in power and cooling costs but, perhaps more significantly, providing Sun with a 456 percent increasing in computing power. And because Sun shrunk the servers and storage rather than using similar gear, it was able to forgo spending an estimated $9.3 million on building out the data center. The servers are equipped with water-based cooling units, which suck the heat directly out of the rack, improving the efficiency of the cooling operations. Sun is in the process of shrinking this data center, which is its main facility, from 254,000 square feet to 127,000 square feet. By going energy efficient, Silicon Valley Power, the local electric company in Santa Clara, has given Sun $750,000 in rebates and a one-time award of $250,000 for cooling innovation, which helped cover the cost of the data center upgrade. Sun's two other data centers are smaller, and the improvements in performance and efficiency are a little different. Sun's Blackwater, England data center shrunk from 100 servers down to 80, reduced floor space from 2,200 square feet to 450 square feet, and reduced power from 184 kilowatt-hours down to 48 kilowatt-hours. (Sun didn't say how much more oomph this setup had.) In its Bangalore, India, data center, Sun has cut the data center down from 10,400 square feet to 5,096 square feet, and ditched 300 older servers with 100 new ones, boosting compute capacity by 154 percent while shrinking the footprint of servers and storage by 51 percent.

Having done the hard work to cut costs and improve efficiencies in its own data centers, Sun wants to leverage that knowledge and provide services for a fee to help customers do the same. This is done through what Sun calls the Eco Ready Kits. There are three of them. The Eco Assessment Kit basically gives a data center a physical exam, with Sun playing doctor. According to Ted Hoy, vice president of marketing for Sun's Systems group, this kit analyzes the health of the physical plant and the server and storage computing infrastructure; it also gathers up vital signs about how well the data center performs over time. The price for this service depends on the size and complexity of the data center; the base price starts at $10,000. The Eco Optimization Kit walks customers through a battle plan to consolidate and/or refresh their server and storage hardware, stressing Sun's own energy-efficient hardware but is not limited to it. A separate Eco Virtualization Kit provides Sun experts to show customers who to virtualize their environments to drive up utilization as part of a server and storage consolidation effort. Sun is obviously going to push Solaris 10 and its Solaris container and LDom partitions and ZFS file system hard as part of this service. But Sun knows that customers have preferences for lots of different kit.

"We are more than willing to take a purchase order for a whole new data center," says Hoy. "But the reality is, this is not what real customers do."


EPA Says American Data Centers Can Cut Power Use Dramatically

IBM Takes Its Own Server Consolidation Medicine

IBM Sees Green in Going Green in Data Centers

How To Build a Green Data Center

Uncle Sam Pushes Energy Star Ratings for Servers

Power Company Gives Rebates on Energy-Efficient Servers

AMD's Green Grid Project to Educate IT on Power Issues

The Balance of Server Powers

Lean, Mean Green Machines

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Editor: Timothy Prickett Morgan
Contributing Editors: Dan Burger, Joe Hertvik,
Shannon O'Donnell, Timothy Prickett Morgan
Publisher and Advertising Director: Jenny Thomas
Advertising Sales Representative: Kim Reed
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