A Virtual Reduction in Energy Use

Most businesses can’t cut out a major part of their digital operation, such as eliminating e-mail, Internet, financial applications, etc. But that doesn’t mean they can’t cut out a majority of their related energy use.

That’s exactly what Lutheran Social Services of New England (LSSNE), based in Massachusetts, did when they implemented a practice known as virtualization. Virtualization is a practice that helps maximize the use of hardware, such as computer servers. In this case, virtualization allows multiple servers to run on one piece of hardware—instead of housing each server on its own piece of hardware.

Normally you have one-to-one: one server representing e-mail, one doing financial applications, one for sharing files and printing, one to run the Internet, etc., according to Paul Halstead, IT Manager at LSSNE.

“If you look at the services on these servers, they are pretty underutilized,” says Halstead. “Your computer processor and your memory are not really used to their peaks all that much. What virtualization allows you to do is to take one machine—one head server—and beef it up so a ton of extra parts and accessories on the inside make a super machine where you can then condense six machines onto one piece of hardware. So that one machine, that one physical machine, can now house six servers.”

In their research, LSSNE determined that costs for cooling and power average $1,000 per server per year while consuming over 6,000 kilowatts of energy. They reduced their physical servers from 12 to 2, saving the organization $10,000 per year. This equates to an environmental impact of planting 188 trees or removing 11 cars from the highway.

This digital energy reduction is part of a larger organizational plan to become greener.

“We decided that virtualization was a cost-effective way for us to implement current technology,” says Halstead. “We try to be good stewards of the earth. We try to be as green as possible. That was a real added benefit for us, not just saving money but the impact we’ve had on the environment. We are going to push this further into the next number of years.”

Lutheran Social Services of New England is a social ministry organizaton of the ELCA.

Lutherans Restoring Creation (LRC) is a grassroots movement within the ELCA seeking to foster care for God's good creation in all expressions of the church's life and mission. LRC is supported by grants from ELCA World Hunger and the Lutheran Community Foundation.