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County designs green data center using Compellent SAN

One North Carolina county redesigns its data center and switches to a SAN, reducing paper records and substantially lowering power and electricity usage.

GRAPEVINE, TEXAS -- Achieving a green data center is often a case of common sense and smart use of technology, particularly storage technology, said Brandon Jackson, CIO of Gaston County, N.C., during a Storage Networking World presentation.

Gaston County, the eighth largest county in North Carolina, has 1,400 employees spread over 35 departments. When it relocated a data center a few years ago, Jackson saw it as an opportunity to upgrade technology while reducing power. "No exotic solution is necessary," he said. "Everything we did is practical. We knew we weren't going to reduce power and electricity by magic. Relocating a data center is kind of scary, but you have an opportunity if you plan right."

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In 2005, Gaston County had 3 TB of direct-attached data on some 40 Windows servers, more than 950 printers (among 1,100 users), five IT staffers in the data center and more than 25 tons of air-conditioning requirements. Jackson said that half of the county's servers had underutilized disk and 20% were full to capacity.

Today, its data center footprint is 70% of the old data center. The county maintains a smaller secondary data center for disaster recovery, has relocated staff to workspace outside the data center and air conditioning has been reduced to 15 tons – all while growing data capacity to 20 TB on a Compellent Storage Center SAN. The county is down to 26 physical servers and 20 virtual servers, and a digital records system helped it reduce the printer count to 250, Jackson said. More than 95% of the data is replicated to the secondary site. Gaston County also auctions surplus equipment on eBay instead of disposing of it in a landfill.

Cooling requirements were reduced by 40%, and power consumption dropped from more than 300 kW hours to 250 kW hours, Jackson said. Gaston County uses a PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) rating to measure its success in saving energy. PUE is determined by dividing the amount of power entering a data center by the power used to run the computer infrastructure within it. The county's PUE rating is above two, which, Jackson said, is considered a high mark.

"You have to continuously measure and analyze," he said. "You don't know if you're improving without measuring, and if you don't analyze, you don't know where you're improving or not improving."

Jackson did not calculate total return on investment (ROI) of the redesigned data center, but said he had to show cost savings on his SAN to justify moving to networked storage. The county saves $78,000 a year using the SAN instead of direct-attached, with the savings coming mainly on management costs and avoiding constant server refreshes, he said.

"That may not sound like a lot to a big company, but it's about 20% of our operating budget," he said.

Jackson credits Compellent's thin provisioning with helping to reduce power and save money. He also said his new setup aids productivity. "We didn't remove capabilities for our users." he said. "We've added applications and grown the data center, yet still managed to save money and become more efficient.

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