Certification Goes Green1 | 2 |
The organization reasons that saving just 20 to 30 watts of power on a desktop computer that is turned on 40 hours a week for 50 weeks a year can translate into a savings of $7.20 each year. The data center also will save on cooling costs, bringing the total to $10 a year.
“At a cost premium of less than $20 for PCs and less than $30 for servers, this additional efficiency will pay for itself in 2 to 3 years,” the white paper stated.
To make finding these products easier, Climate Savers publishes a regular catalog of Energy Star and other energy-efficient equipment.
One of the simplest and cheapest ways an IT facility can save on energy bills is to activate power management software that allows users to put their computers to sleep when inactive. Although installed on almost every PC sold today, this software often is manually deactivated.
“PCs or even notebooks are left on overnight so that IT [pros] can do network patches, software patches, updates — whatever the case may be,” Carr explained.
But recent technology, such as Microsoft’s Vista or Intel’s vPro, allows IT pros to access a network computer and wake it up if a patch needs to be deployed. The engineer can then power the computer back down when the upgrade has completed.
“We estimate that in the business world, enabling that software, or installing that software, can save customers about 200 kilowatt-hours a year per PC,” Bramfitt said. “In our area — northern California — [that] equates to almost $30 of annual savings.”
For this reason, PG&E offers incentives to customers for using power management software, and Climate Savers has included it in its pledge.
The low utilization rate of servers has two major impacts on a company’s bottom line: higher equipment costs and higher energy costs due to increased distribution. Virtualization allows multiple applications to run securely on one server.
“The knock-on effect of virtualization is that you get lower electricity costs on top of higher asset utilization,” said EDS’ Kim Stevenson.
Physical consolidation is the first step. Rather than having four two-way processors operating at 10 percent capacity in their own boxes, Stevenson said, you can put them on the single dual-core processor in one box and achieve 50 or 60 percent utilization. EDS research indicated that utilization can reach 80 or 90 percent in some cases.
Until now, this consolidation was impossible, since each application must run separate from the data associated with it to avoid corruption. Virtualization technology such as VMWare or Microsoft Virtual Server creates a logical partition, as well as prioritizes activity just like a physical server, Stevenson said.
“You think, ‘OK, now I have only one thing to manage, one physical thing — not four,’” she said. “So there are some benefits in that in terms of the cost of operating: I have one place I’m sending my electricity to; physically there’s less cabling.”
That’s not to say virtualization doesn’t come with challenges. Peak load times can get those typically underutilized servers up to full capacity, for example.
“What you really have to do is understand the type of work you have and when those peak loads are,” Stevenson said. “If everybody has the same busy peak period, the work’s going to get hung up and go really slow.”
The solution is to use application rationalization to find complementary work environments, she said. So, rather than having extra servers or building special IT environments for peak periods, different departments or even separate businesses with different peak periods can share resources.
“Finding those complements, both inside companies or even when you move to an outsourced environment, that’s where it becomes more challenging,” Stevenson said.
Greening your business doesn’t just mean improving the technical aspects. It also includes the site selection, design and recycling capabilities.
“In picking sites for where we put our data centers, we pick sites wherever possible where there is green energy available,” Microsoft’s Bhandarkar said.
The floor plan utilized by Prometric’s Baltimore test center, which allows for additional workstations without more building, is also an eco-friendly option, as is its space-saving furniture.
“This provides not only a sleeker test center look and feel but offers candidates more available desktop space,” Indrisano said.
It’s also important to factor in airflow considerations when designing a data center, said Stevenson. Since so much energy is expended in cooling a data center, organizations need to maximize the effect of airflow.
“We’ve arranged our data centers into these hot-cold aisles, so we don’t get hot spots in the data center that cause overheating of a particular server,” Stevenson said. “The air comes up out of the bottom of the floor, and of course heat rises, so it’s taking that natural flow of heat rising and pushing it further.”
All of this, she added, “requires a little bit more planning.”
Another related issue is recycling, which Prometric, EDS and other companies have been playing with. According to the December 2007 Gartner report, IT organizations should set up recycling plans when they first purchase their IT equipment, which should be environmentally friendly hardware in the first place.
Additionally, “IT organizations looking to set a more progressive environmental agenda should look at how they can increase material efficiency by using less equipment or more materially efficient equipment and by extending the life of the equipment they need,” according to the report.
The success of its Baltimore test center has prompted Prometric to plan green centers in Europe and many other areas in the U.S. With a little more time and research, the company hopes to use more natural lighting in these future centers and integrate other eco-friendly practices, such as developing a furniture buy-back program.
“We feel responsible for following and embracing these standards to be environmentally friendly,” Indrisano said. “[Implementing these practices] will be exciting, and our clients are excited about seeing those changes.”
– Agatha Gilmore, firstname.lastname@example.org