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The ECOnomics of "Green IT"

Jan 10, 2008
"Green computing" isn't just about saving the world for the next generation. The primary focus is cutting costs, improving efficiency, and getting near-term, measurable results.

The following questions and answers address the business benefits of eco-friendly computing and show strategies for how you can profit by going green.

What is the business rationale for green computing? Power consumption of data centers doubled between 2000 and 2005. Currently, energy costs take up one tenth of the typical IT budget. According to studies, that could leap to 50 percent within a few years.

The upshot, Gartner says, is that 80 percent of the world's data centers are now constrained by heat, space, and power requirements. Going green has become a business necessity to meet user demands within budget.

How much power is wasted in data centers? Gartner estimates that anywhere from 30 to 60 percent of energy in data centers is wasted. Inefficient cooling systems are one problem. In addition to addressing this issue, another important step is to consolidate data centers by reducing hardware footprints and physical servers through virtualization.

Using that approach, Sun Microsystems just finished building three new energy efficient datacenters in the United States, India, and the United Kingdom. The three-pronged formula:

1. Assess Datacenter.
2. Optimize Infrastructure.
3. Deploy Virtualization Technologies.

The results were dramatic: Sun consolidated 738 storage devices to 225, yet increased storage capacity by 244 percent. The company also consolidated 2,177 servers to 1,240, yet increased compute power by 456 percent.

As a result of these changes, energy costs were cut by over 60 percent, saving more than $860,000 in the first nine months. On top of that, the initiatives earned nearly $1 million in rebates and awards from Silicon Valley Power.

What are the best practices in green computing? In August, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a report at the behest of Congress recommending ways to reduce energy costs in data centers. The 133-page reports identifies three sets of guidelines that define a data center: improved practices, best practices, and state of the art practices.

* Improved practices include low or no-cost activities, such as shutting down servers that are in use.
* Best practices revolve around things like "energy efficient" servers" and buying more efficient uninterruptible power supplies.
* State of the art practices entail aggressively consolidating servers and storage, while enabling power management at the data center of applications, servers and equipment for networking and storage.

This report can serve as a good model for companies wishing to move to a higher level of eco-friendliness. "It's a function of [what] any organization needs to do good planning and implementation of best practices that currently exist, Andrew Fanara, head of the EPA Energy Star development team told reporters.

What is the biggest deterrent to green computing? As the EPA report states, "people" issues trump technology. At many companies, the facilities management department makes decisions on energy costs and availability but has little to do with IT decisions. In the past, CIOs often had no idea about rising energy bills until power and cooling issues prevented them from adding servers to the data center. That is changing quickly. "More chief financial officers are becoming aware of the energy bill and are starting to hold CIOs responsible," says David Douglas, Vice-President of Eco-responsibility at Sun Microsystems.

What bottom-line benefits have companies enjoyed from going green? The case studies of companies profiting from green computing are growing fast. For example, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, one of the world's largest medical research facilities, is using a high-performance computing grid to make discoveries that could lead to personalized medical treatments for life-threatening diseases. What's more, this solution reduced power by 67 percent when systems are not in use

Verizon turned to energy-efficient servers, which need only one-twentieth of the power of the average PC, to reduce the overall electric power bills at new call centers by about one-third. "At one call center, we received a call from our local utility on the morning after we replaced PCs" with new energy-efficient ones, says Carl Eberling, Verizon Wireless, Vice President of IT. "They were concerned about the sharp drop off in our power consumption."
About the Author
For the full version of this report and more info on eco-friendly computing, visit our blog or email us at support@technologysolutionssimplified.com. Our deep technical expertise and dedication to superior customer service provide a competitive advantage for our business partners.
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