It is widely known that companies have become more conscious about their impact on the environment, and with the 40th anniversary of imageEarth Day approaching, I wanted to provide a lens on how some of us in Redmond think about the green implications of technology, efficiency and the  environment. Through software engineering, product development and collaboration with hardware and software partners, Microsoft is driving new efficiencies for organizations that deliver significant savings.  Lets take a look at some perspectives and capabilities. 

Beginning with the Operating System, the latest releases of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 are the most efficient Windows products ever built. 

Windows 7 has driven efficiency through some key investments in the platform including performance optimizations, idle resource utilization, device power management, and key end-user scenarios focus.

In the interest of efficiency, the Windows Client has focused on 3 main areas specifically aimed at making the OS work tighter to the hardware manufacturers, smoother and more reliable transitions between power states and making the OS generally more manageable.

  • Reduced Power Consumption - Microsoft designed Windows 7 with a strong focus on reducing the overall power consumption by investing in key areas of the platform including performance optimizations, idle resource utilization, device power management, and key end-user scenarios.
  • Enhanced User Experience - Windows 7 can provide users with a richer experience when they are traveling by offering greater responsiveness and energy efficiency. Windows 7 provides enhanced processor power management to deliver energy savings and performance on portable computers, which can provide longer battery life.
  • Provide IT with Better Tools to Manage Power Consumption - Windows 7 provides IT pros the tools they need to configure and resolve issues with power management, including power-management diagnostics. IT pros can configure Windows 7 power management by using PowerCfg.exe (a command-line power-management utility), Group Policy, and Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI). With Windows 7, IT pros are able to centrally manage more power management settings on a more granular level.  System Center also introduces power policy management covered later in this post.

Windows Server 2008 R2 has also made some significant investments in the light of efficiency.  Similar to the Windows client, a major focus is on power consumptionDatacenters have only limited amounts of space and power, so making processors perform more efficiently with the OS can provide significant gains.  Improved Management of File Services through the Windows File Classification Infrastructure (FCI) in Windows Server 2008 R2 provides insight into your data to help you manage your data more effectively, reduce costs, and mitigate risks.  In addition, improving Remote Administration through enhancements to Server Manager, and adding out of the box Windows PowerShell v2.0 support helps to reduce further cabinet visits, allowing the Administrator to work remotely. In addition, virtualization plays an important role in consolidating hardware, and maximizing ROI for servers. 

Microsoft conducted a series of tests to compare the power consumption of Windows Server 2008 against that of Windows Server 2003 (WS03). For the first test, both operating systems were 64-bit editions, and were installed with out-of-the-box (OOB) configurations on a single server with 2 dual-core processors and 4 gigabytes (GB) of RAM. The tests revealed that Windows Server 2008 OOB achieved power savings of up to 10 percent over Windows Server 2003 OOB at comparable levels of throughput.  More information here.

Microsoft has also teamed with some key partners to drive efficiency parallels between the OS and hardware layers.  HP and Dell are 2 great examples.  


HP Integrated Lights Out – iLO is an embedded server management technology exclusive to HP.  iLO makes it possible to perform activities on an HP server from a remote location. The iLO card has a separate network connection (and its own IP address) to which one can connect via HTTPS.  Similar to previous generation RIB cards, iLo is a next generation out of band tool designed for remote administration of power control, remote media, logs are possible.   iLO is a capability designed to work with Windows Server 2008R2 to assist Administrators by supporting a large percentage of their tasks remotely. 

Dell OpenManage technology available in 11th (11G) generation PowerEdge servers provides new Embedded Management functionality that streamlines common maintenance processes, like system deployment remote management and update, by embedding the management and enablement tools directly onto the hardware.  ‘Lifecycle Controller’ is the engine for advanced embedded management and is delivered as part of iDRAC Express in the new, 11th-generation Dell PowerEdge servers (“Dell 11G servers”). It includes 1 GB of managed and persistent storage that embeds systems management features directly on the server, thus eliminating the media-based delivery of system management tools and utilities needed for systems management.  There are also some other components to Dell’s EM, find these covered here.

Building on to of the OS and hardware layers, there are some specific System Center capabilities designed to specifically take advantage of these enhancements.  These are delivered in 3 core System Center products.  Operations Manager, Configuration Manager, and Virtual Machine Manager. 

The Power Management Pack for Operations Manager 2007 R2 enables you to monitor and manage the power consumption of computers running Windows Server 2008 R2.  In a data center with multiple devices connected to a power distribution unit (PDU), you can compute the maximum power that the devices could consume, but there is no simple method to measure consumption. By using the Power MP, you can gather data on the amount of power that the devices actually use. Outside of Group Policy (which has specific requirements like Domain membership) ,  the Power MP assists you in managing power usage by providing alerts if the power plan of a server is not set to the desired power plan. You can enable automatic recovery to apply the correct power plan to a server when an alert is generated.  During off peak times, you can also lower power consumption to reduce overall power consumption on target systems.  By using the Power Management Pack with computers that use hardware that qualifies for the “Enhanced Power Management” Additional Qualification logo, you can also limit the amount of power that a computer in a power set can use.

Building on this MP technology, Virtual Machine Manager provides the ability to integrate through Performance and Resource Optimization (PRO) packs to add automation and centralized control to a collection of virtual guests, workloads, services and even hosts.  For example, through the MP integration, a collection of Virtual systems running on a particular host could be automatically migrated to another host using Live Migration, and then that host spun down to offline status.  The trigger for this activity could be a collection of thresholds, low CPU, time of day, temperature, or other resources.  image

The 3rd System Center product, Configuration Manager 2007 R3  provides the ability to centrally monitor power consumption, define power policies, and enforce these against collections of systems.  In addition, R3 provides the ability to report across all levels of power, CO2 and user activity with rich web based reports that are relevant to the business.  Using terms the business needs, cost per kilowatt, CO2 emissions saved, and power cost reductions are just a few examples.  By enabling Power Management in the client, ConfigMgr R3 reports on power consumption that allows for the Administrator to observe usage and consumption patterns that assist in defining peak and non-peak activity.  Once this usage is understood, policy definition at the collection level is made, both for peak and non peak times, as well as for both Power and Battery states.  These policies are applied at the collection level, and once enforced, reports showing cost savings, CO2 savings and usage pattern adjustment can demonstrate the savings.  

Microsoft also has an initiative across the product groups focused on Environmental Engineering; a combination of best practices, and development focus.   Similar to trustworthy computing, where security was made a focus at the product engineering and code level, environmental attitudes are impacting software design.  As an example the focus in Windows to be more efficient, consuming less power and generally being more manageable is 1 example.  It goes beyond this, to groups like System Center, Office and more who recognize that businesses need to save money through technology, not just spend it.

Some resources for you:

  • Audio Retailer Makes Crutchfield Sound Decision with Virtualization, Saves $245,000 in Hardware (link)
  • Ford to save millions of dollars, drastically reduce carbon emissions just by turning off its computers at night (link)
  • Microsoft and the Environment (link)
  • Microsoft’s Top 10 Business Practices for Environmentally Sustainable Data Centers (link)
  • Windows 7 Power management investments (link)
  • Windows Server 2008 and the Planet (link)
  • Improved Data Center Power Consumption and Streamlining Management (link)
  • HP Integrated Lights-Out (iLO) Advanced (link) and Wikipedia summary (link)
  • Dell OpenManage overview (link) and Wikipedia summary (link) and the Dell Embedded Management (link)
  • Windows Power Management Pack for System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2 (link)
  • Virtual Machine Manager PRO partners (link)
  • Configuration Manager 2007 R3 (link)

Thanks for reading, Happy Earth Day.

bio picJeff Wettlaufer 
Sr. Technical Product Manager
System Center

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