Universities find the virtualization sweet spot

Rick Leclerc, director of sales engineering and co-founder of Bradford Networks, has worked with Bryant University since 2005 and said going virtual with server racks fits with schools’ growing “green” initiatives aimed at curbing emissions and trimming energy costs as university budgets stagnate in the struggling economy.

“The movement is under way to limit the hardware footprint,” Leclerc said. “It’s definitely on the green initiative side. … Reducing the amount of heat output means less cooling, so the fewer servers, the less cost.”

Bryant University, included in the Princeton Review’s first Guide to Green Colleges last year, saved 15 percent in energy costs for its data center operation, according to university statistics.

Removing physical servers from campus reduced the IT floor space requirement by about half in 2010, and ed-tech officials reported a 30-percent time saving and 15-percent increase in service delivery.

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“For many IT organizations, the savings from server virtualization would have represented the conclusion of a very successful IT initiative. However, for Bryant University it was just the beginning,” said Art Gloster, the university’s vice president and CIO. “We have opportunities to enter a new stage of IT maturity by leveraging virtualization across multiple facets of IT infrastructure, thus delivering maximum value with minimal cost consequences.”

Aris Ventura, an inside storage solution architect for CDW-G, said that even as physical servers pile up on college campuses, IT pros will see many of their servers working at about 3 percent capacity. Virtual servers can use more than 60 percent of their capacity, Ventura said.

“Essentially, if a customer buys a server specific application, they end up purchasing hardware that is never fully used to its potential,” he said. “This practice results in wasted energy and hardware costs.”

Virtualization, of course, isn’t limited to server racks. Colleges also have slashed energy costs by virtualizing the hundreds of computers spread throughout campus.

Karl Herleman, CIO at Miami Dade College, has, like many campus technology decision makers, moved his eight-campus school toward virtualization in the past three years. This means one computer in a campus computer lab can power several machines.

Miami Dade College has trimmed its energy consumption by 10 percent since 2008, thanks largely to virtualization, Herleman said.