May 12, 2010

Virtual Private Servers and the Environment


Hostway Team

By Gail Seymour

Virtualization technology can help reduce the environmental costs of hosting on a dedicated server. Without virtualization, each customer hosting on a dedicated server would have to have a physical machine in the server farm. These would typically be low specification entry level machines. Many of them would be older and less energy efficient. Even then many of them would be running well under capacity most of the time, perhaps with the odd spike in demand forcing the customer to pay for more resources than they need.

Benefits of Virtual Private Servers (VPS)

Because virtualization allows higher spec servers to be used, new machines that run on low wattage and utilize other green computing advancements can house several customers. Virtualization allows each user root access to their own partition on the server.

Each machine can have multiple instances of an operating system running simultaneously, and can even run different OS software on partitions, so the host no longer has to have servers dedicated to Windows, Linux, Unix, or any other OS you might need to run. Virtualization means resources can be fully utilized while keeping costs down. A virtual private server can also be as secure as a dedicated server. Using software that allocates physical resources across each user partition and shields one user from spikes in other user's usage, means each has a guaranteed minimum level of processing power.

The VPS is housed on a load balanced server cluster, rather than on a single server, so these minimums can be guaranteed while still allowing for short term capacity increases, so you don't have to upgrade your package for every spike in traffic.

The Environmental Benefits

The ability to use larger specification servers means fewer are need overall. So not only is each machine more energy efficient, less are required to manage the same workload, and that has multiple environmental benefits, some obvious and other less so.

  • Lower Server Power Consumption
    The sever farm's most obvious environmental impact is in it's use of electricity, so anything that helps keep that down is going to be an advantage. Fewer machines that use less electricity is a great start, but the benefits don't end there.
  • Less Cooling Equipment
    With fewer machines, less cooling equipment is needed. Since cooling a server takes as much energy as running it, power savings are instantly doubled.
  • Less Peripherals
    Also, fewer machines means less peripherals, such as routers and switches, all of which need their own power supply.
  • Smaller Footprint
    With fewer machines, more capacity can be housed in the same space. Less space means not just less cooling, but also less lighting and maintenance. It also means the server farm doesn't have to be expanded or moved to a larger purpose built building as soon, which in turn means less construction work, with all its attendant carbon issues.
  • Less Future Landfill
    Choosing equipment now with an eye on its end of life disposal, it makes the most environmental sense to use fewer high spec components rather than multiple lower spec ones. Each still contains hazardous materials that have to be responsibly disposed off when the time comes to replace them.

About the Author

Gail Seymour has been a Web site designer for more than 10 years. During that time she has won three design awards, and has provided the content and copy for dozens of Web sites and more than 50,000 Web pages.

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