Sustainable IT departments will have to weather some big changes. One of the largest is the move to virtual servers. What, we asked Citrix, is so green about virtualization?
Virtualization treats IT resources as an abstraction – so one machine can be shared by different operating systems running different tasks. “What that brings is the ability to reduce the number of physical servers,” said Patrick Irwin, product manager EMEA at Citrix – one of the leaders in the field. “Instead of having a hundred servers to manage, you can consolidate to 25.”
Server virtualization is well proven, and a majority of servers now ship ready to run a hypervisor – the basic enabler that allows machines to host many virtual machines. VMware has grabbed the lion’s share of the early market, but Citrix provides a hypervisor that is open source – and therefore likely to be cheaper.
When we spoke to Irwin in January, Citrix had scored a major coup, with a deal to put a version of its hypervisor on Intel motherboards, bringing “bare metal” virtualization to the desktop. “You can have a secure corporate virtual machine on your home PC, streamed down from a central server,” said Irwin. “This could cut desktop management costs, and allow IT departments to simplify the way they do business.”
Since then, Citrix has cut ten percent of its workforce after disappointing results, but commentators believe the Intel deal could help it in the longer term, by allowing users to safely put corporate apps on home PCs.
“You can lower the total cost of ownership of your desktops by 50 percent over non-managed desktops,” he said. “You can give people the opportunity to work from home.”
Controlling them remotely also cuts the cost of technical support: “We have a customer in Ireland, who reduced his expenses from €10,000 in 2007, to around €800 in 2008, mostly by cutting travel expenses.”
But, however exciting this new desktop paradigm might be, the big hit for virtualization is still making server rooms leaner, said Irwin. Corporate data centres can make up 40 percent of a company’s energy bill, and in a given country, IT can burn up to four percent of the total power, according to figures from the US Department of Energy.