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Reducing power consumption with green IT solutions

Good for bottom lines and for the environs, green IT is not a hard sell to clients that need help putting green IT strategies and solutions into practice.

You can't blink these days without seeing a "green" message. Whether it's a company advertising that it's a green dry cleaner, its apples were grown in a green way or its brand of house paint is greener than it used to be, it's no secret that going green is the new cause célèbre. The green issue even bleeds over into the world of IT, where some faultfinders claim that technology got us into this mess. But I say technology can help us get out of it.

Greening up IT is a fairly straightforward endeavor. The goal is to reduce power consumption, which makes good financial sense with energy costs skyrocketing. Desktop workstations are a great place to start. The savings per device are not going to get the CFO's attention, but in larger organizations, the sheer number of computers makes it worthwhile. Begin by offering new Energy-Star-compliant PCs, displays and printers. And make sure the power supply is a unit approved by 80 PLUS, which ensures that 80% or more of the energy going to the power supply will make its way to the device.

Next, establish a green IT policy and implement it on all desktops, using the power-saving mechanisms in the software on your clients' computers. Ensure that when workers aren't using their computers, the monitors will power down. And if they spend even more time away from their workstations, configure the software so the whole computer will power down, saving even more electricity.

How much will your client save? Let's assume the organization has 1,000 computers, and right now 35% of them have power-saving features enabled. If the power consumption bill runs around $28,000 per year and you implement power saving on all machines, the bill should drop to $9,900.

Vendors are doing their part to help reduce power consumption. Consider Microsoft's much-maligned Windows Vista. It is a dud in some respects, but it did introduce more than 30 new power-saving features to help users reduce their overall energy consumption. Windows 7 promises even more power-saving features, including:

  • Per-machine power settings
  • Group Policy support for all inbox power settings
  • A default timeout that automatically blanks the display
  • A system idle timer for entering sleep mode
  • Processor power management for desktop and laptop hardware
  • Immediate responsiveness to sleep or resume
  • Applications, services and drivers that cannot block sleep transitions

And there are a number of third-party add-ons, such as those from Verdiem Corp. and 1E Ltd, that help monitor energy-consumption policies.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg. If you really want to see some improvement, consider server virtualization. This would allow you to convert regular servers to virtual servers, and in turn your client will need fewer physical servers.

Virtualization rewards an organization on many fronts. It reduces the effect on the environment because it requires fewer physical servers, which means fewer servers need to be manufactured and powered. Also, by reducing the number of servers, your customers will need less data center space and fewer administrators, and they will spend less on power and cooling. Given that power and cooling now cost more each year than typical server gear, those are big advantages.

When you buy new servers, consider getting processors that have the ability to "park" cores -- which reduces the amount of power going to them when they are not in use. This isn't like waiting for a machine to come out of sleep mode. It happens instantly.

You may not be the biggest tree-hugger on your block, and you may not even care about the planet. But everyone cares about the bottom line, and when you can save money by consuming less power, you'll also be helping the environment.

About the author
Toby J. Velte, Ph.D., is an international best-selling author of business technology articles and books. He is co-founder of Velte Publishing Inc. and the co-author of more than a dozen books published by McGraw-Hill and Cisco Press. Dr. Velte is currently part of Microsoft's North Central practice, which is focused on helping companies thrive with their technology-based initiatives. He works with large organizations to create IT roadmaps that are business focused and practically implemented. He can be reached at [email protected].

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