Juniper Networks wanted to become more efficient in human-resource use, to cut hardware maintenance and software licensing costs, and to better utilise space, all through a green IT project.

To accompany these goals, Juniper set a concrete energy-consumption target: a 30 percent reduction in its power footprint -- all to be accomplished within one year with minimal disruption to business operations.

Much of the impetus for the project came from the need to get a handle on server proliferation within the company. "Departments had been adding their own servers rather than looking for additional capacities in the server room, so operational efficiencies as well as energy efficiencies were considered," said Sarah Sorensen, a spokeswoman for Juniper.

The solution was a two-step process of server consolidation and virtualisation. First, the company eliminated dozens of servers and virtualised over 100 more. The company then reduced its 250 remaining physical servers into about 10 physical boxes.

The overall reductions in server room energy use were significant. Juniper estimates that its corporate servers will consume nearly 1.3 billion fewer watts per year, thanks to the elimination of more than 352 servers and their associated cooling units.

Both phases of server reduction began with a careful analysis of each server's use. The first phase of analysis was conducted by Juniper's IT staff with input from each server's stakeholders.

Having reduced consumption by 50 kWh, the staff was ready for phase two; for this, they brought in a VAR familiar with the company's operations to help with a server audit and subsequent action plan.

Getting everyone on board

Careful planning was critical to ensure the project went smoothly, as all the applications being migrated were accessed by various departments, including finance, sales, and marketing.

A team of 10 worked directly on the project, but several virtual extended teams were established to ensure appropriate representation across the organisation.

The resulting reductions in management headaches, direct energy consumption, and equipment cooling costs from the project weren't realised without significant investments in new servers, racks, and other infrastructure equipment. In addition, Juniper introduced new software into the datacentre in the form of off-the-shelf server virtualisation and management systems.

As is the case in most enterprise capital expenditures, Juniper evaluated the investments in terms of the potential time to return. "We did have to make some additional investments," said Sorensen, "but we think that the return will be in 12 to 18 months."

One of the unanticipated benefits of the project's results has been the acceleration of discussions about which additional server functions might be virtualised. "[The project] has led to additional conversations about virtualisation in the datacentre," Sorensen explained. "Some of those conversations had begun before, but having a successful plan in place has helped accelerate the other discussions."

When coupled with the improvements in management efficiency, the project has produced results that lead Juniper executives to declare the efforts a success. The success of this project doesn't mark the end of Juniper's efforts to reduce the company's energy footprint, however. Sorensen said, "This was not the end of the process. It was the objective for 2007. Each year we set additional objectives to reduce energy consumption, and try to better manage our resources."

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