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  • What do you think a good "green" system administrator should do?
  • What have you done?
  • What are you planning to do?
  • Is there any "best pratise" about ecology?

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Go support my site proposal at area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/15640/… to create a great site for all energy efficiency questions. –  Hanno Fietz Aug 20 '10 at 15:30
This question is off-topic under current topicality rules. –  HopelessN00b Jan 22 at 5:24

17 Answers 17

up vote 15 down vote accepted
  1. Virtualization for server consolidation
  2. Paperless office as much as possible
  3. Shutting down workstation(s) at night
  4. Shutting down servers that aren't doing anything
  5. Pushing SunRay at the office (very cheap, very small thin client solution)
  6. Going to work by bike or bus

Methinks this thread should be community wiki, btw...

How and when do you shut down servers and workstations? I posted a question (serverfault.com/questions/39851/…) on that topic and would be interested in knowing more about it. –  Hanno Fietz Jul 13 '09 at 13:49
Workstation: by hand, at closing time :) I am a Linux admin, so the way I shut down Windows (I'm pushing Linux, but that takes time) workstations is by pressing and holding a certain button. Shutting down servers is mostly a matter of keeping an eye on servers projects request and - very often - shutting them down after a while as the are not being used at all... Sorry, nothing magical here. –  wzzrd Jan 14 '10 at 16:25

Used virtualisation to help get rid of over 8,000 physical servers, allowing for the closure of 3 data centres.

Wow! That's a lot of servers; How many host servers did it take? –  Michael Haren Jul 13 '09 at 13:55
540-550 in total –  Chopper3 Jul 14 '09 at 19:33
So, what do you do with that many redundant servers? –  Pure.Krome Jan 14 '10 at 13:51
They were 99.9% HP boxes so we traded them in for a discount on the new stuff, no idea what they did with them though to be honest - some were really old and not all 8,000 servers were virtualised, some were just replaced. –  Chopper3 Jan 14 '10 at 14:03
Was that VMWare consolidation ? –  Antoine Benkemoun Apr 30 '10 at 15:49

I educated over 120 users to turn off (or hibernate) their computers after work, especially over the weekend.

Set the power settings so their monitor goes into standby.

What did you do to make them listen to you? They usually just don't care what "strange guy with a beard an a beer says". –  sharptooth Jun 17 '09 at 12:11
I told them that who will have uptime more than 4 days I'll restrict him/her the internet for next week. –  onesysadmin Jun 22 '09 at 4:09
internet restriction on uptime is genius –  PeteT Apr 30 '10 at 14:46
"Your machine gets to be online for 60 hours a week. If you want to spend them overnight while you're not here, that's fine" :D –  Bill Weiss Aug 20 '10 at 15:45

Studied only in digital format. Never printed my documentation. Trained my cat not to play near my keyboard and mouse while i'm away so my monitor remains in power saving mode. :)

Not printing documentation is my favorite. I see many people print these huge manuals, that are then changed every few months. Reams of paper being wasted all the time. I understand wanting some paper versions sometimes, but at least be selective in the pages you are printing! –  Matt Jul 13 '09 at 13:57
I cannot think to read all on monitors, paper is still paper. As far as ecology and "realms of paper" goes, well, don't print it all - just the relevant parts you're interested in. In most modern books, it takes 30 pages just to get to the table of contents. –  ldigas Jul 13 '09 at 14:30

Pushed Virtualisation and reduced the number of servers in our server rooms by 2/3

Specified more energy efficient servers, and always opted for low power servers & server components if at all possible.

Advocated doing the same for workstation purchases, which is now being done.

encouraged people to think before they print

Oh yes, pushed out power management settings to all PCs on our campus that ensure they use as little power as possible, especially when idle (quick to sleep, etc).

reviewed power consumption of things like switches and routers and made power consumption a major part of the purchase criteria for these devices, equal with cost. (of course, power inefficient switches that generate a lot of heat but have a lower sticker price tend to eat up that price difference in terms of power consumption and cooling needs).

Interestingly enough, thinking "green" isn't terribly different from "thinking about overall TCO of devices, including power and cooling needs".


I've reduced physical server requirements. Reduced SAN power consumption by planning to install the next version of SAN's OS which will spin down FANs and disks as possible. And I never go to the office so no carbon from my cars tail pipe.


I've never used Gentoo Linux on production servers :-)


We're introducing wake-on-LAN for our Campus Grid (distributed computing system that runs on the student PC clusters on campus) so the machines only run overnight when there are computational jobs pending rather than being on 24/7

This has nothing to do with being green and everything to do with saving money as far as I can tell :)

We're running an increasing number of VMs rather than buying new kit where computational requirements allow.

How do you switch off machines and how do you decide when they should be? –  Hanno Fietz Jul 13 '09 at 13:45

Currently replacing all old CRT monitors with new, low-energy TFT monitors. Studies have shown greatly diminished power consumption.

  • Reuse old hardware as often as possible.
  • Recycle hardware that can't be reused (or give it to charity)

Where applicable, only purchase hardware certified as EPEAT Gold. This prevents excessive packaging, brominated plastics and other nasty stuff from entering the waste stream.

Also, lease equipment that gets handled properly upon return or dispose of surplus equipment in a sustainable manner. (ie. Don't sell on eBay to some slime who is going to ship your stuff to Ghana to be smelted by children.)

I really hate excessive packaging, the industry reeks of it. I guess I'm not very friendly always insisting on ordering on-site stuff to be delivered unpacked though... oh this reminds me of that Dell vs HP blade system ad –  Oskar Duveborn Apr 30 '10 at 15:03

Be principal in establishing working group or committee that reviews programs for coding inefficiencies

-before, or just as, the jobs go out to the clusters.

The group whould probably consist of a handful few pragmatic, not-to-judgmental devs and admins.

  • If you spot, and correct, a simple oversight that makes one large batch take (1 week)*(1000 CPU:s) and get it down to (1 day)*(1000 CPU:s), then not only is that a pure time-saver, it is also a very substantial electricity saver.
  • ...and, if a running time of 1 week is okay - then maybe it turns out you only need 1/7:th the number of nodes in your cluster, which would also mean quite a cut in power.

If you look at the data center from a sysadmin perspective, as others have mentioned, there are the following ways to reduce energy consumption:

  • use virtualization to better utilize physical servers, getting rid of those that aren't needed
  • try to make your cloud "elastic", i. e. turn on more servers during high demand, turn off servers during low demand. If possible, do the same with network gear.
  • in all buying decisions, consider lifetime energy consumption, too. Also look at hardware features that help to save energy.
  • check out OS features that help clock down the processor, spin down hard drives, etc.

However, there's more to the data center than servers. There will be someone who runs all the infrastructure, i. e. cooling, ventilation, lighting. Cooling easily takes up as much energy as the servers themselves. That person can use your insight to tune his/her gear. For example:

  • What temperature do your machines really need? I've seen a company doing extensive research on components' heat tolerance and over time they got their data center to work reliably at 40 °C room temperature (it started to get shaky at 45, so they took a step back), saving them on the order of 80% on their energy bill. To get there, they also placed temperature sensors inside the servers and watched their readings very carefully. Of course, with tropical heat in the server room, they either had to cool it down for scheduled maintenance, or had to put on swimming trunks in an emergency (I'm not kidding, not at all).
  • What usage patterns do you have? Usage is never flat, and your energy consumption should correlate with the pattern you have. If you get that to work with your servers, the facility management can follow the pattern with their gear.
  • What requirements do you have for maintenance on-site? Can they turn off the lights, or turn them down? Can they switch the lights so that you can light one aisle at the time? Etc.

In complex environments like a data center, cooperation among experts is key to saving energy. Do your part.

Shameless plug: Also, do follow my site proposal on StackExchange and discuss this type of questions there, once it's up.

+1 for increasing temperature - though 40 °C seems excessive as many appliances have operating temperature ceilings at 35, but if it works I'm all for it ^^ –  Oskar Duveborn Apr 30 '10 at 15:06
I told the full story in another answer (serverfault.com/questions/16383/…). It really seems far-fetched, but if you remember that it's really the temperature on the CPUs etc. which is important, then you'll find that it can be done. A CPU, for instance, can easily work at 50-60 °C. –  Hanno Fietz Apr 30 '10 at 15:46
In fact, the main problem with room temperatures above 25 °C is that the people who have to go in there will feel very hot. –  Hanno Fietz Apr 30 '10 at 15:47

Shown management that "green" can mean "good for the bottom line"


I've refused to repair broken printers :D


I developed freelance a few applications web oriented that removed all the papers previously required, for signature and approval.

I do most of the office trips by train, subway.

I use air-conditioner only when necessary.

Actually this is more a way of life that is applied to my IT job.


Hmm... this question smacks of socio-political undertones. Not everyone buys into the green movement. Are sysadmins who aren't "green" not good?

For my part, I've made a pledge to not use styrofoam cups for my coffee and to only smoke in the designated smoking areas of my building.

Personally I think the "green" movement is important for the sustainability of the planet; but professionally I use "green" where it's "good for the bottom line" and that seems to gain a heck of a lot more traction. –  Chris S Aug 20 '10 at 15:36
Where does it say Server Fault questions can't have such undertones. Also Green IT often means lower TCO. Everything mentioned so far does that. –  JamesBarnett Jan 15 '11 at 20:09

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