Book review: Foundation of Green IT

If you want to understand the real impact of the recent Data Center hype without getting pulled into the technology morass the vendors so copiously spread in their white papers, read the Foundation of Green IT book published by Prentice Hall. Its author, Marty Poniatowski, uses two case studies to illustrate enormous savings that can be realized through server and storage consolidation. I loved the first half of the book: the author avoids the technology issues (I loved the introduction to RAID: “I do not cover RAID background … the Internet has a wealth of information on RAID”) and uses real-life data gathered in actual project to illustrate the savings. Each case study has several chapters, ranging from starting point discovery through implementation plans and ROI analysis; exactly what you need if you’re considering going down the data center redesign path. The “Desktop Virtualization” and “Data Replication and Disk Technology Advancements” chapters are thrown in for good measure.

The author makes the server and storage consolidation case studies even more interesting by describing actual products/solutions and inserting screenshots of actual reports throughout the text. Not surprisingly, he’s describing what he knows best: HP servers, EMC storage and VMware virtualization; a clear indication how far Cisco has to go to win the hearts and minds of the data center market.

After the fantastic first half, the second half is pure disappointment. It starts with three networking chapters that clearly show networking is not the author’s strong point. All of a sudden, the interesting real-life details are replaced with technology introductions … although the author quotes an IDC report in the preface claiming that the technology represents #9 (out of 10) challenge in data center environments. You’re pulled into quagmire of IOS release numbering and PSIRT advisories; the contrast with the excellent first half is all too obvious. There’s also no ROI analysis. No surprise: the author advocates replacing 10 obsolete low-end Fast Ethernet switches with a fully redundant Catalyst 6507C4507R-E; I’d love to see a ROI analysis that can justify that investment based on power and cooling savings.

The last part is a hodgepodge of topics. I was looking forward to the SQL Server Consolidation chapter; more so as it was written by a Microsoft’s engineer. It was boring and could be summarized in a single sentence: SQL Server is another application that can be virtualized using the rules outlined in the first five chapters.

The Green Data Center chapter is undoubtedly the best part of the second half of the book; it succinctly describes the issues of cooling, air flow, data and power cabling … but then the quality starts sliding down with Cloud Computing (no wonder; I have yet to find someone who can write something I will find interesting about this vaporware architecture) and Simple Power Savings (summary: turn off your computer at night) chapters. The last chapter; Managed Services: Remote Monitoring is a pure product description of a software product the author’s company is selling.

Regardless of the shortcomings of the last chapters (which were probably thrown in to expand the scope; a better title would be Foundation of Green Data Center), I can strongly recommend the book for its excellent descriptions of server virtualization and storage consolidation issues. I also have to congratulate its author for his marketing prowess; the whole book is a great case study/white paper for the services his company offers … and we’re willing to pay for the privilege to read it.

2 comments:

  1. Just a note on the correction: the figure on page 163 shows a Cat6507R-E, the table two pages later lists a C4507R-E.

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  2. The book is okay but there are some glaring 'omissions' one example is the around the benefits of desktop virtualisation and how they even support offline working - both VMware and Citrix offline desktop implementations are experimental and there is no official support. The book also fails to mention the potential problems with respect to storage requirements even with the use of linked clones the storage requirements can be quite substantial. Don't get me wrong the book is good but it seems to omit some challenges/pitfalls and 'hidden costs'.

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Ivan Pepelnjak, CCIE#1354, is the chief technology advisor for NIL Data Communications. He has been designing and implementing large-scale data communications networks as well as teaching and writing books about advanced technologies since 1990. See his full profile, contact him or follow @ioshints on Twitter.