Nationwide Takes Multi-Prong Strategy to Greener Operations
Insurance Experts' Forum, June 15, 2010
There is no one way to pursue green technology and operations—such an effort calls for an integrated approaches that encompass hardware, software and physical facilities. As part of my recent report on the industry's leading green data centers (published in the May issue of INN), I had the chance to talk with Rod Brown, director of the mission-critical group at Nationwide Mutual Insurance, about his company's green initiatives. Nationwide began emphasizing energy efficiency in 2005, he says. “We basically challenged ourselves to be energy-efficient, be environmentally friendly and find ways to do that.”
Nationwide's New Albany, Ohio, data center is part of the company's dramatic consolidation from 28 to three data centers. The company currently operates out of two consolidated data centers, with the third, greener New Albany center starting to come online this year. Much of this process was possible through virtualization of the company's IT systems—Brown reports that up to 50% of Nationwide's resources are now virtualized. The consolidation “saved us quite a bit of money, and also makes us more energy efficient and greener,” he says. “We've been able to leverage our equipment into two smaller spaces.”
Nationwide is pursuing green efficiencies through virtualization, server and storage consolidation, and building modifications, he says. “We try to use efficient IT in all of our spaces.”
And the efforts are paying off. “We've been able to take 20 physical servers and collapse them onto one virtual device,” he says. “This saves significant amounts of energy and floor space.”
Brown says leading vendors, such as IBM and VMware, recognize Nationwide as the industry leader in virtualization. “We're somewhere around 50% virtualized today; we're achieving a 20-to-one rate on virtualization through VMware and System z machines. We’re achieving 70%-plus utilization rates on CPUs.” In addition, Nationwide is making an effort to “remove comatose servers and make sure we are procuring Energy Star servers.” The IT operation also is employing blade server technology to achieve further greenness. “We believe that's going to reduce our energy consumption by 25%.”
Efforts to achieve efficient and green data centers need not be expensive or overwhelming. “It's okay to start small,” Brown adds. “There are many best practices and small steps you can make that can have a dramatic impact on your operations. Whether its simply configuring your space to make the best use of your cooling systems, or closing up holes in your raised floor, or choosing to turn off comatose servers, or turn on power management features of your servers, there are many small things that can be done—and master—before you take on the big projects.”
Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.
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