The environmental DBA

Today is Blog Action Day and everyone is posting about the environment.

As IT workers, we are privileged to have more impact on the environment than most people. While most people may bike to work or recycle some stuff, IT workers can help reduce the electricity usage in their data centers, with a significant impact on the environment.

This year I’ve been involved in a huge project to reduce the electricity usage in our data center. We cut it by more than 30%. Here’s how we did it:

  1.  We got rid of the mirror filer. Well, almost. Over the last 10 years, the mirror filer saved us about 12 hours of downtime and never ever saved our data. Thats not a good use of money or electricity. We used the mirror filer to set up clustered failover (does that count as recycling?) so we still have some high availability, but now each controller is serving a different group of databases, instead of one being a mirror of the other, saving us the need to buy a bunch of new disks for the new databases. I know how some reputable DBAs hate RAID 5 so much they won’t even talk about it, but it seems to work for us just fine.
  2. VMWare. Most of our application servers are now running on virtual machines. This was not a simple project. Politically, application owners hated it and started blaming VMware for every application issue (actually, I liked that, because they used to blame the DB). Technically, we needed to figure out which applications can be hosted together and which have to be separated. We also had to build a number of management tools to keep track of which machine is hosted on which VMWare. Overall, its worth it, not only for the electricity, but because VMWare is really fun to work with. We used to wait weeks for a new machines – now it is 20 minutes!
  3. Optimize the code. CPU and IO hogging applications use more electricity. Optimize your code to use less CPU or less IO, and you help not only your users but the environment as well. Efficient code is good for earth!
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