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Taking Simple Steps

By Alison Diana Print this article Print

Saving the world starts with saving a dollar—and I.T. is doing its part.

Taking Simple Steps
In addition to technology changes such as virtualization, companies can take some simple steps to save energy—and money. Just as children are taught to turn out the lights, IT departments are taking steps to ensure that employees’ PCs are not sucking up unnecessary power.

The city of Las Vegas is a prime example. It is tapping the existing centralized approach to technology to remotely turn off unused computers, says Joseph Marcella, the city’s CIO and director of information technologies. “I shut off the PCs,” he says. “Our first calculation showed a saving of $50,000 a year.”

The city also closely monitors and tweaks internal climate controls and carefully plans server positioning. “We are leveraging our space by configuring the data center in a manner that positions equipment most efficiently,” Marcella adds. “The spacing of rack systems is a whole lot different than in the old days of mainframes or even client-server. That has reduced consumption by 15 percent.”

The Planet, a privately held hosting company in Houston, also redesigned its data centers to boost energy efficiency. “The data center floor tiles were rearranged to better manage cold airflow,” says Jeff Lowenberg, vice president of facilities. “Seals and grommets were installed in the ceiling, in the walls and underneath the floor to reduce bypass airflow. Blanking plates were installed in all server cabinets to direct airflow more efficiently, and the holes beneath our 480-volt power distribution units were sealed to reduce bypass airflow.

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“We also extended the return air plenums on our computer room air-conditioning units to within 2 feet of the data center ceiling. These higher-return air plenums are able to cycle air from the hottest part of the data center, further reducing bypass airflow.”

To house their growing number of servers, many businesses add new data centers, sometimes overbuilding to meet anticipated requirements, says Tim Caulfield, senior vice president, operations, at Savvis, a St. Louis-based company that provides IT infrastructure as a service. Real estate prices are dropping in many areas, but construction is still costly—and often unneeded, he says, adding that many businesses are realizing that their existing networks and servers are not being fully utilized.

“If you’re building a new data center, there are things you can take advantage of that will make it more efficient—just like a new refrigerator is more energy-efficient than an older model,” says Caulfield. “But in the scheme of things, the order of magnitude of the efficiency, by itself, is not going to solve the problems.”

One other critical step is winning top management support for green initiatives. “I’m gearing toward opening the eyes of senior management,” says BancMidwest’s Priebe. “Being fiscally responsible really opens their eyes. When you’re green, you’re being fiscally responsible.”

Unfortunately, the initial price tag for some green solutions can turn off some executives, cautions Osaka Gas’ Nakauchi. “It is sometimes difficult to make a clear presentation to decision-makers in the enterprise on why we should buy ‘green’ hardware,” he says. “Purchase orders may be higher at first glance, especially compared to more standard hardware. In order to sell the idea of green IT to decision-makers—sometimes including board members—we created powerful total-cost-of-ownership return on investment scenarios.”

This article was originally published on 2008-07-30
Alison Diana is a freelance writer for Baseline Magazine.
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