The Power of Green

By Alison Diana Print this article Print

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

Kermit the frog was only partly right: While it may not be easy being green, today CIOs have a broad array of tools they can leverage to save the Earth—and their company’s resources.

In fact, a growing number of IT executives at enterprises and government organizations are putting their technical expertise to work improving their organization’s bottom line—along with the environment—with the help of better-designed data centers, virtualization, centralized computer management, and computing devices that demand less power and cooling.

However, IT professionals do face obstacles in their quest to go green, including apathy, cost fears and a concern that greening is just another fad. “I don’t think there are many people or investors who don’t care about saving the environment, but they don’t think of IT as being green,” says Ping Ooi, assistant vice president of Ares Management, a Los Angeles-based financial management firm. “It’s historically been a cost center and an energy hog.”

But the time has never been better for melding the often-complementary goals of saving the environment and saving corporate budgets. “It’s a confluence of the environment and economic pressure,” says Hubert Yoshida, vice president and chief technology officer at Hitachi Data Systems, which, as part of Hitachi, is subject to the parent company’s extensive environmental rules, in place since 1999. “People are running out of floor space and power. This is really about efficiency.”

IT organizations are gearing up to deal with this challenge, often turning to virtualization, centralization and management tools to resolve energy issues.

For example, Osaka Gas, which serves 6.7 million natural-gas customers in the Kansai region of Japan, adopted IBM’s WebSphere Virtual Enterprise to increase its application availability, optimize its operations and provide better integration with business processes. “Virtual Enterprise provided an entry point for application infrastructure virtualization,” says Hiroshi Nakauchi, professional IT architect and technical director at the Osaka Gas Information System Research Institute. “Because of this project’s success, we plan to move to a fully virtualized environment. The most crucial driver has been cutting our electric overhead to protect the environment.”

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Another business that uses virtualization to reduce hardware, cut energy costs and improve operations is BancMidwest Services, a St. Paul, Minn., subsidiary of Mainstreet Bank that manages assets of more than $500 million. The company centralized its storage operation and used virtualization to reduce costs and energy consumption, says Brian Priebe, IT manager and senior network engineer.

To date, the financial firm has virtualized 12 servers and is removing older hardware. It selected the 4 terabyte Compellent Storage Center storage area network (SAN), and Enterprise Manager software to provide the reliability, security and environmental friendliness it needed, Priebe says. The solution features a dashboard that allows BancMidwest to track consumption and charge that back to the appropriate departments.

The solution cost $23,000, compared with $219,000 for a traditional nonvirtualized storage implementation with the same capabilities, he says. In addition, BancMidwest has seen its carbon footprint drop from 10 million pounds to 10,000 pounds, according to Priebe, and the company has planted hundreds of trees to offset any damage it has caused.

Ares Management also turned to virtualization. Founded in 1997, the company now manages more than $20 billion in private equity and grew from using 12 servers two years ago to 80 servers, according to Ooi. The electrical system could not keep up, and breakers blew two or three times a quarter, he recalls.

To deal with that problem, Ares uses five VMware virtual servers, which use only 15 amps of power, versus the 1,550 amps used in the past, says Ooi. The company’s 3.5-ton air conditioner, previously not powerful enough to cool the data center, is now more than adequate, and Ooi estimates energy savings averaging $8,000 a month.

“Management saw that electric bill and said, ‘What did you do?’” he recalls. “Here’s the green I’m talking about—and it’s the dollar.”

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