Slaying the Vampires, One Plug at a Time

In a social media-steeped culture that fixates so often on the reanimated dead—be it through zombie hoards or sequin-skinned vampires—one would think that we would protect ourselves more from the steel-skinned vampires inside our data centers. I don’t know about you, but I have yet to stumble across a Kindle version of “Slaying Vampire Servers for Dummies.” Have you fallen victim to the energy siphon of the “Vampire Server?” If you have, fear not. I’m here to provide you with the proper weapons—consider this your proverbial wooden stake or crucifix to power proficiency bliss.

Forgive me as I seem to have Halloween on the brain, so let me be clear. Developing green initiatives that have cost-efficient business models can be a daunting task; however, thankfully for us, the blood suckers that lurk in data centers are considerably easier kills than the festered corpses we see on AMC. With a bit of sleuthing, planning, and conservation, you can witness an immediate and drastic reduction in your data center operating costs.

The first step is simply discovering what you’re up against. Know your enemy.

Did you know that an idling server still uses 50% of the energy of an active one?1 According to research done by The Green Grid, on average, an individual server costs $250 a year to power. This may seem small, but it is a sobering number once plugged into the equation of a fully-fledged data center. Consider a warehouse of 5,000 servers with only 5% of them idle. You would be, according to the math, “spending $62,500 for energy to power servers that are doing nothing” (Miller 2011). Ouch.

Bear in mind that these calculations fail to even factor in wear and tear on the hardware. The Green Grid estimates that operational costs are $4,000 per year, per server. Multiply that by the 5% of idling units, and you are spending an additional $1,000,000 per year on dead weight. Essentially, by routing out the vampiric corpses, you are saving yourself enough revenue to purchase an entirely new data center.

As we have touched on before, such vampire servers are not limited to idling units. With the improvements that processor manufacturers like Intel have made with power efficiency, your current models may be causing more of a drain on your resources than you realize. See our infographic on how to reduce your energy costs for a more detailed breakdown on this energy model. It may seem counter-intuitive to your grandparents’ mantra of “old and paid off is cheaper than new and unpurchased,” but the technological advancements that are now available outweigh the expense of purchasing new gear.

Alright, we’ve identified the enemy. Now what?

For those of you who have perhaps already bitten the silver bullet and updated to cutting edge hardware, you can still be sucked dry if you do not proactively cull the idlers from your systems. Make it a top level priority to discover which servers are being effectively used and which ones are simply money pits. Removing those suckers is a free solution with instant savings results. Why wait?

  • Implement strict change models for detection and decommissioning of unused servers

    • Establish universal procedures in order to ascertain which servers need to be shut down.
  • Now pull the plug. Literally.
  • Implement a repeatable mechanism that alerts you to newly idle servers within the system.

    • Develop a tracking or queuing system for all effectively active or idle servers in your data center.
  • Have a game plan of reuse for when servers need to be brought back online.

According to The Green Grid, “an efficient server uses most of its resources, most of the time, doing the work for which it was purchased.” Some of you may struggle with the thought of shutting down a machine that you purchased to do work, but remind yourself that a decommissioned server is a cost neutral server. Once the vampires have been put to rest, you are no longer paying for power consumption, heat output, licensing fees, patch requirements, or maintenance, to name a few of the heavy hitters. Plus, if you don’t need the server, you can extract the value by working with an ITAD partner to resell it.

So, the next time you’re binge watching your favorite post-apocalyptic TV show, be thankful that the vampires of the data storage realm do not require the pull of a trigger, a hatchet throw, or a stake to the heart to be killed. They just need a keen eye and a willingness to pull the plug. Well done, soldier. You can rest easy this Halloween that the aisles of your data center are now energy savvy and vampire-free.

  1. http://sdm.mit.edu/news/news_articles/webinar_061112/keville.pdf ↩︎
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