How to Go Green

By Michael Vizard  |  Posted 2008-06-26 Print this article Print

Start green initiatives with simple efforts that will help IT develop a groundswell of support.

IT professionals are not always the most popular people in an organization. After all, much of the job involves telling people they can have only a certain amount of access to a limited resource, while also enforcing corporate policies that are typically handed down from on high.

So when IT managers think about the implications of green computing, many feel a bit reluctant to kick off such a program. Green computing has the potential to rile users, while also introducing the risks associated with implementing any new systems and processes.

That’s why it’s not a good idea to start with a major effort, such as consolidating data centers. Instead, begin with simpler things that will enable the IT department to develop a groundswell of support for the green concept.

That’s the approach taken by Rob Revels, telecom technologist for the Delaware Department of Technology & Information (DTI). The first element of the department’s green revolution was a relatively simple effort to leverage scripting tools from ScriptLogic to create a set of routines that would, after a set period of time, automatically send PCs into hibernation, spin down disk drives and turn off monitors.

By Revels’ calculations, that step alone saved about 11 cents per kilowatt hour. On an annual basis, that’s about a $10,000 saving for every 200 workstations.

As a next step, Revels replaced old CRT monitors with LCD displays that are 50 percent to 70 percent more energy-efficient. He also set the default on printers to double-sided printing and kicked off a technology recycling program. Before Revels knew it, state employees who were energy-conscious—or who appreciated his efforts to cut costs in order to save jobs—were cheering for his team.

In time, Delaware’s governor learned of the green campaign and made the practices Revels developed for DTI the foundation of a new initiative to cut power costs within state government. According to William Hickox, DTI’s chief operating officer, there are roughly 20,000 workstations in use across Delaware, so he estimates the state should be able to save approximately $1 million a year on the program.

Naturally, all this work—and the grassroots support it generated—made it much easier to get approval for a new blade server consolidation effort. This endeavor promises to halve the number of server units the state currently runs by adopting virtualization software that will increase the utilization rates of the new, more energy-efficient blade servers. Instead of having to argue the case about the need to replace older server units, the IT department finds itself in the enviable position of having a receptive audience.

Controller Jeffrey Savin points out another benefit of the green campaign: He says morale is higher because employees like working for an organization that’s doing something about energy issues, even though most won’t receive a raise during these tough economic times. Obviously, cutting power consumption isn’t going to make up for rising food and fuel costs, but it does give employees a boost at a time when many are concerned about their economic circumstances.

Here’s the key lesson the vendor community should take away from this story: Before technology suppliers start urging their customers to spend more money on new systems just because those machines are more energy-efficient, they need to spend a lot more time educating their customers on the relatively simple things they can do today to conserve power and cut costs.

The natural by-product of Revel’s activity has been a series of upgrades to various computer systems. However, the important thing to understand is that these new IT sales are the result, rather than a cause, of a successful green computing campaign.

It wouldn’t be accurate to say that Revels had a grand plan in mind when he started down this path by trying to more effectively manage his division’s workstations. But his efforts did create a blueprint that others can follow to build momentum for a green computing initiative that benefits the company, the IT staff and the people who rely on IT’s services.


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