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Promoting green initiatives with VMware software

Green initiatives aren’t just for data centers. Reducing electricity use and preventing e-waste at home can be as simple as using free VMware software to virtualize desktops.

Everywhere you turn, companies are highlighting green initiatives by marketing their products as environmentally friendly, and VMware is no exception. Just like certain cleaning products and energy-efficient appliances promote green initiatives, VMware software can also help the environment as well as save you some money and electricity along the way.

More on using VMware software to promote green initiatives

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Calculating power savings from virtualization

Save electricity with VMware software
One way to promote green initiatives in your home is to convert old, physical computers to virtual machines (VMs). If you’ve worked in data centers, you are probably familiar with the process of virtualizing existing physical machines and hosting them on newer hardware, thus reducing energy consumption and cooling costs.

Even if you have never set foot in a data center, you can still use VMware software, such as vCenter Converter, to convert your old, home computers into VMs. Then, you can run use a hypervisor, such as VMware Workstation or VMware Player, to run the VMs on a newer, physical computer.

An informal survey of the folks that I work with revealed that most families have at least one, if not two, computers that they keep just in case they need to access something on it. But what is the likelihood of actually needing that budget spreadsheet from 1999 or your Tetris game? Converting that old home computer into a VM, and making it available as needed, should put your mind at ease. In addition, it will reduce the clutter in your home, unless you consider discolored computer-grey boxes as fine centerpieces.

Once you have converted your old computer to a VM, you can then recycle the old hardware. Not having to provide electricity to old computers will lower your utility bills. Even if you don’t power on that old desktop, many devices still use power when plugged in.

How VMware software directly affects your bills
Do you know how much energy your home-computing equipment uses? I certainly did not.

In doing research for this article, I used a nifty little device, called the Kill A Watt meter, to find out. The Kill A Watt plugs into the wall outlet, and then you plug the device into the meter, which measures the equipment's voltage, amps, watts, hertz and kilowatt hours (kWh). In my town, kilowatt hours are the metric used for calculating the electricity bill each month. Using the Kill A Watt meter, I tested two, average computers that are both configured to run VMs, in addition to standard office applications. Here are the results:

Formula Laptop Desktop
kWh in 24 hours 0.65 4.08
x Cost per kWh $0.07 $0.07
x 30 days in a month 30 30
= Monthly cost to operate $1.36 $8.57

First, there seemed to be no significant increase in the amount of power consumed when an additional VM was running on the computer. You can also see that the electricity consumption varies widely, based on the type of hardware. Regardless, converting physical computers to VMs and running them on more efficient hardware can lead to cost savings over time. As shown in this example, running a virtualized instance of the desktop computer on the laptop would save approximately $100 per year in electricity costs.

Use VMware software instead of buying a new computer
Believe me, I know how tempting it is to buy a new computer. The rationalization begins with how much time you will save, how the latest hardware is more reliable and it has a nice display. Yet, in all likelihood, your existing computer’s processor and memory is underutilized.

If that is the case, consider building or installing a new VM on your existing hardware, rather than buying another physical computer. VMware offers many prebuilt virtual appliances, which are an excellent way to try out an operating system (especially open source OSes) that may even have a suite of applications to fill your needs.

You will not only better utilize your existing computer's hardware but also get to enjoy that smug feeling of doing something good for the environment. And did I mention that when you include the cost of support and maintenance , plus new antivirus software and office suite licenses for a separate computer, you will also save yourself a lot of money?

Support green initiatives and reduce landfill contributions
I have written about disposing of computer equipment and how the scope of the e-waste problem has increased at an alarming rate. While virtualization will not eliminate this issue, it can certainly contribute to a significant reduction in e-waste. Instead of thinking, “One more computer isn't going to matter,” consider what a difference it would make if each family got by with one less physical computer because of virtualization. Now you are talking about huge savings in disposal costs and the reduction of toxins, which have the potential to negatively affect the environment.

Virtualization has made a huge improvement in energy efficiency and the greening of the data center. By applying VMware software to our home-computing environments, we can achieve green initiatives by reducing energy consumption and the amount e-waste that enters into landfills. In the process, we can enjoy the feeling that comes from doing something positive for this beautiful planet.

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