Austin Energy

With a new virtual environment, applications run on 150 servers instead of 600.

Austin Energy promotes itself as a green company, delivering sustainable power options to customers and offering incentives to help them conserve energy.

So it's not surprising that the community-owned utility wants its internal practices, including those in IT, to match its public message.

For that reason, the IT department considers the environmental impact of its decisions, whether they're related to big projects, like a new data center, or more routine tasks, such as buying Energy Star 4.0 equipment and promoting videoconferencing to reduce travel-related emissions.

"You have to look at every green feature that the industry has to offer and leverage that green feature while still maintaining your service level," says Mike LaMarre, division manager of infrastructure management.

Consider, for example, Austin Energy's data centers. Five years ago, IT started moving to a virtual environment. It now uses just 150 physical servers to run applications that might otherwise have required 600 machines.

IT carefully selects the hardware that goes into that environment, opting for servers with new multicore CPU technology, energy-efficient MAID (massive array of idle disks) storage with intelligent power management, and energy-saving de-duplication and compression technologies.

The data centers also run on 100% green energy, and a new data center will feature an energy-efficient design.

"The goal is to build a 100% green data center," says CIO Andres Carvallo.

Carvallo says his team is exploring other energy-saving opportunities, such as using DC power in the data center to eliminate the energy loss that occurs when converting from DC to AC. Austin Energy is also piloting the use of more-advanced temperature sensors in the data center in order to reduce cooling demands. And it's planning to switch as many desktop systems as possible to more-energy-efficient thin clients.

IDC analyst Vernon Turner says most companies undertaking green initiatives today are doing so for those kinds of returns in energy savings. But leading companies also make sure their green-IT initiatives don't just deliver green benefits, but also enhance quality of service and help lower costs. "They have to be integrated solutions," he says.

Pratt is a Computerworld contributing writer. You can contact her at

Next: EPA's Michael Zatz calls on data center operators to take leadership role


Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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