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Building an Energy-Efficient IT Infrastructure

By Samuel Greengard  |  Posted 2009-02-22 Print this article Print

A good energy policy can supercharge an organization’s performance through direct electricity savings, a diminished need for facilities, and lower capital costs related to servers, storage and other devices.

Mark Wood understands the value of going green. It’s good for business and it’s good for the world. But, these days, plugging into environmental consciousness is only part of the story.

The director of data center infrastructure for Highmark, a Camp Hill, Pa., health insurance provider, is looking to build the optimal energy-efficient IT infrastructure. “It’s no longer possible to take a casual attitude about energy costs,” Wood says. “It’s become a fundamental part of operating a business.”

With 2007 revenues of $11.9 billion and more than 11,000 employees, Highmark has established itself as the largest health care insurer in the state. Now it’s confronting energy-efficiency issues head on. It has introduced sophisticated energy auditing tools, virtualization software, data center analysis and management systems, as well as the decidedly low-tech method of educating employees about when to turn systems off. The firm also has upgraded facilities with smart energy and lighting systems.

“There’s no question that it’s a challenge to transition to more energy-efficient systems,” Wood acknowledges. But as energy prices rise and corporate budgets shrink, he and other IT executives are beginning to understand how a good energy policy can supercharge performance through direct electricity savings, a diminished need for facilities, and lower capital costs related to servers, storage and other devices.

“Energy efficiency is no longer an option,” states Anil Desai, an independent consultant based in Austin, Texas. “It’s part of a strategic approach to business, and it is evolving quickly.”

That’s hard to dispute. As companies migrate en masse to online transactions, audio and video, electronic records, and wireless and satellite systems, the demand for data center space and servers continues to climb. Moreover, a spate of government regulations, enhanced business continuity and disaster recovery requirements, and the need to archive and retain data are forcing enterprises to do more with fewer resources.

“Energy use and greenhouse gas production are now mainstream issues,” says Andrea Moffat, senior director of corporate programs at Ceres, a Boston-based business sustainability advisory firm. Adds Daniel Sitarz, author of Greening Your Business and a lecturer on sustainability and environmental issues at Southern Illinois University: “Energy issues aren’t going away. It’s something that every organization must deal with.”

Samuel Greengard is a freelance writer for Baseline.
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