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EPA urges efficiency, many data centers still far from it

Patrick Thibodeau | June 4, 2014
One large company is improving energy efficiency with aggressive server management.

Initially, the decommissioning process was chaotic. Shutting down a database server might involve up to a dozen tickets, but there was no order to it. The IT operation turned to an orchestration software system to ensure orderly steps were adhered to: that database administrators would go first, followed by storage, and then operating system and eventually to the people who would do the physical work.

To overcome concerns about decommissioning, Nally said the decommissioning process was made as "safe as possible" and "reversible." With those controls in place, "people's reluctance to hit 'approve' sort of abated," he said.

To help manage the process safely, the firm's IT department spreads the shutdown process over the three weekends.

The first is an inventory check to make sure the server is in the location it's believed to be; the following weekend, the server is shut down via an automated workflow; and on the third weekend, the server is removed from the rack.

The three week process allows Barclays IT teams the option of a quick recovery if there is a mistake in the decommissioning. They also created an internal Web page to simplify the process and build metrics.

Early in the process, there were some errors in decommissioning servers, but it has improved steadily by using a repeatable and consistent plan.

Barclays also has two staff people whose full-time job is to manage the decommissioning. "Having some people dedicated to this also lends itself toward a consistent program," said Nally.

"A huge part of this challenge is just, quite honestly, dealing with human nature," said Nally, because turning off something is a risk. "So you have to have some skin in the game to accept that risk."

To get that buy-in, Barclays has a large awareness program to save cost and be more efficient, he said.

Decommissioning servers is "cleaning up after yourself," and in doing so "you remove a lot of noise from the environment," said Nally. The end result is a more nimble and efficient IT operation, he said.


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