Sustainable IT projects save power, servers, fuel

Awards finalists adress issues of sustainable ICT

Server virtualisation, IP-based systems running an environmentally-friendly building, and a web-based, collaborative system allowing air traffic managers and airlines to more effectively work together all feature among the finalists in the Best Sustainable IT Project category of the Computerworld Excellence Awards.

Server numbers slashed

The New Zealand Defence Force has crushed server under-utilisation on one of its 14 network layers, and is planning to do so for the rest.

Project CRUSH (consolidate and rationalise undersized server hardware) was initiated at the NZDF after it was realised that increasing the size of the force’s main datacentre in Wellington and secondary datacentre in Auckland to cope with increasing computing demands wasn’t practical.

A decision was taken to better utilise the existing capacity of the two datacentres, while delivering answers to sustainability challenges. Server virtualisation was identified as the way to do this and VMware selected as the vendor.

The initial phases of Project CRUSH reduced 300 of the 700 servers at the two datacentres to just 30.

Project CRUSH also involved taking a decision not to buy new servers to host new applications, instead utilising existing servers. The SAN that serviced the network that was virtualised under CRUSH was replaced, resulting in better performance and less power consumption. The main goal for the future is to extend CRUSH to the NZDF’s other networks.

Thin clients, virtual servers bring savings

Virtualisation is also a key theme in Manukau Institute of Technology’s entry. In 2005, the south Auckland tertiary institute began a project investigating virtualisation, and subsequently a virtualisation programme was embarked on.

Using VMware products, 64 servers were virtualised and hosted on four Intel Xeon quad CPU servers. Later, two dual quad core Sun x4600 servers were added, which resulted in an environment that required fewer network cables.

The virtualised environment means fewer new servers need to be purchased and when new applications and IT products are bought, they must be able to be run in a virtualised environment.

The institute’s terminal servers were also virtualised, with Sun Ray thin clients used to deliver a low-powered Microsoft environment to students. This has resulted in big power savings.

However, for some multimedia applications, there were limitations. This is being addressed by a plan that may involve hosting Windows XP and Vista virtual machines and delivering them using VDI virtual desktop technology.

VMware’s VMotion management tool is used to move virtual machines from one physical host to another while the VM is still operating, which allows the physical server to be upgraded while the VMs are still operational, ensuring business continuity.

The lack of downtime for physical upgrades has resulted in less stress for MIT’s IT staff. Plans for the future include expanding the virtualisation programme. As virtualisation develops, high-end services will be placed on VMs.

IT powers eco-friendly head office

Meridian Energy’s new headquarters on Wellington’s waterfront is designed to consume less than half the amount of energy and water than is the norm for New Zealand corporate office buildings.

IT has played a significant part in reaching that target, which was achieved under the banner of Meridian’s ec3 project. Staff have energy-efficient laptops that consume a maximum of 110W and use smartphones. There is a wireless LAN, which allows staff to collaborate online and reduces the number of documents that need to be printed.

eBeam whiteboards and virtual meeting tools allow the concept to be extended to meetings, reducing the need for multiple copies of printed documents for meeting participants.

The audio-visual control system is integrated with the building management system and lighting system via XML. The building management system monitors temperature and solar gain, and automatically adjusts natural ventilation, heating and lighting within the building.

The ec3 project has seen the introduction of these and other measures, which together have made the building and working environment energy-efficient and sustainable.

The project is being extended to Meridian’s other buildings, in Christchurch, Twizel and Manapouri.

New system scraps wasted airtime

Airways Corporation’s CAM (Collaborative Arrivals Manager), which has been in operation since September, is a web-based application that enables airlines to re-schedule delayed flights in such a way that the delay takes place on the ground, not in the air, reducing fuel wastage and carbon dioxide emissions.

CAM is an internet-based convergence of systems, processes and databases.

It was developed after Airways looked at CDM (Collaborative Decision-Making) tools on the market, but found none that fitted its requirements exactly.

Under Airways’ previous system, arrival times weren’t issued until a pilot called the control tower for clearance. That meant the CTA (Controlled Time of Arrival) and associated information often wasn’t in pilots’ hands until passengers had boarded. CAM allows Airways to issue a CTA to airlines up to three hours before the scheduled departure time, allowing time to plan for any delays.

A key aim is to ensure any delays occur while the plane is on the ground, not in the air, saving fuel. Airways estimates that up to 12,000 minutes of delay will be saved at each CAM-controlled airport each year.

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Tags new zealand defence forcemanukau institute of technologymeridian energycweaairways

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