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Designing Green Networks and Network Operations: Saving Run-the-Engine Costs
Green Project Management ISBN: 9781439830017
The Green and Virtual Data Center ISBN: 9781420086669
Green IT Strategies and Applications: Using Environmental Intelligence ISBN: 9781439837801
Lean IT: Enabling and Sustaining Your Lean Transformation ISBN: 9781439817568

Advancing Green from Idea into Action

by Nathan Coutinho, Solutions Manager, CDW

When does "green" technology transition from a mere idea to something more tangible? When it materializes into the kind of green that fills your wallet. For IT professionals working with tightened budgets, excess spending is not an option. Fortunately, energy efficient technologies are becoming more accessible and often more affordable, making it easier for organizations to reduce power consumption, and, subsequently, their costs.

CDW's third annual Energy Efficient IT Report surveyed 756 IT professionals from U.S. businesses, governments and schools, and found that organizations increasingly value energy efficiency. Two-thirds of IT managers surveyed believe that understanding best practices in energy-efficient IT is vital to their professional success. Further, the percentage of IT managers who believe that energy efficiency is a critical consideration when purchasing new IT equipment increased significantly over the past year, from 26 percent in 2009, to 39 percent in 2010.

Many organizations are beginning to put these ideas into action, pursuing data center consolidation to reduce IT energy costs and environmental impact. Data centers account for 1.5 percent of total U.S. electricity consumption at a cost of $4.5 billion annually. In response to this growing number, 79 percent of IT managers reported that they have or are developing a strategy to consolidate servers, storage devices, power management tools and other data center equipment, with most deploying some sort of innovative approach to reduce energy use, such as installing more power efficient switches or using their networks as a platform to manage energy use.

Reality Check
While most organizations care about reducing energy consumption and acknowledge the opportunity for significant savings, success requires a dedicated and persistent approach to developing and implementing energy efficient practices. This persistence can be difficult to maintain, because few IT departments are truly aware of the amount of energy their organization consumes and exactly where it's used.

According to the CDW report, 27 percent of IT managers never see their department's share of the energy bill, which perpetuates an "out of sight, out of mind" effect. Executives responsible for the IT energy bill are more likely to place high importance on energy efficiency in the purchasing process than executives who are not, demonstrating the importance of transparency with energy use within an organization.

Despite the potential for disconnect between upper management and the IT department, energy efficiency efforts are paying off. According to the Energy Efficient IT Report, more than half of organizations that have or are developing programs to manage and reduce IT energy use have seen significant reductions in IT energy costs.

What's the Holdup?
Although energy efficient technologies are more widespread today, many organizations report that they still struggle to allocate funds for energy-efficient IT programs and equipment. Cost concerns, however, may be more perception than reality. Just 17 percent of IT managers surveyed said they believe the cost of energy efficient IT equipment is prohibitive, which makes sense, as many of the advances in the data center involve reconfiguration and decommissioning rather than a one-to-one replacement of old equipment.

As green technologies advance, industry standards follow. A few years ago, IT professionals hoped for clear industry guidelines for energy efficient equipment in the data center. Now, both industry and government are providing comprehensive information regarding what constitutes energy efficient IT equipment, enabling IT managers to make more informed purchasing decisions. With established standards, new technologies, improved solutions and clear benefits, the barriers to implementation are subsiding, and energy efficient IT is becoming a reality.

Once you are ready to implement energy efficient technologies, consider the following:

  • Make the commitment: Implement energy guidelines company-wide. Assign roles and responsibilities, and provide the tools to monitor and improve energy efficiency within your IT department and the organization as a whole
  • Be proactive: IT equipment manufacturers are constantly improving energy efficiency, so actively look for low-power/low-wattage devices that meet your performance requirements. You may be surprised how quickly they pay for themselves
  • Think outside the box: While training employees to shut down computers will aid in reduction efforts, organizations that have successfully reduced IT energy costs are making more significant changes, such as investing in LCD monitors and low-power servers and computers
  • Evaluate energy use: Identify and quantify all opportunities to reduce IT energy use, and prioritize action by cost/benefit
  • Monitor your data: Develop a storage strategy, archiving old or rarely accessed data, and eliminating duplicate data. This reduces the number of storage devices needed, cutting energy consumption and costs
  • Go virtual: Assess your infrastructure from desktop to data center, and examine the different virtualization technologies available to reduce your system's footprint:
    • Servers: One of the most common virtualization platforms - server virtualization - can reduce the number of physical servers, racks, switches and cabling, lowering power consumption accordingly. A typical physical server draws 500-600 watts of power and consumes roughly 5,000 kilowatt-hours of energy per year when run continuously. Eliminating just one server can save hundreds of dollars annually on the energy bill alone.
    • Desktops: Hosting desktop computers and applications centrally in a data center and removing hard drives from employee desks enables 30 to 75 sessions to run on a single server, which can greatly reduce power consumption.
  • Consolidate the data center: While few organizations can virtualize an entire data center, consolidating multiple database servers and network switches can reduce the physical footprint, ultimately boosting energy efficiency.
  • Rethink your switches: Move to top-of-rack models for access layer switching, and consider replacing edge and workgroup switches with more power-efficient switches.
  • Leverage available tracking tools: Utilize free EPA and Department of Energy programs to assess data center improvements and validate investments. By installing tools such as Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE), organizations can track efficiency metrics.
  • Provide incentive: Organizations that provide incentives to IT departments that improve energy efficiency are more likely to make energy reduction a priority. For example, reduced IT energy spending can be one component of a manager's performance evaluation, recognizing successful reductions with a monetary award.

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