Business Taps Into Green Opportunities

By Samuel Greengard Print this article Print

Green IT is changing the way business and IT leaders make decisions. But companies are discovering that they’ve only begun to tap into the opportunities.

By Samuel Greengard

Over the last few years, the idea of operating a green company—and promoting green IT—has undergone a remarkable transformation. Companies have discovered that it makes sense and saves dollars to design and build more efficient data centers, servers and software applications.

"There are clear and compelling business reasons to go green," states Rami Rihani, senior manager and green IT operating lead for Accenture.

Nevertheless, it's clear that many organizations have only begun to embrace more energy-efficient business and IT practices.

"The recession and spike in energy costs over the last few years has permanently changed thinking about green IT," says Mark Monroe, executive director of the Green Grid, an industry consortium that promotes more efficient practices. "We have seen steady improvements in power usage effectiveness, though significant opportunities remain."

For many businesses, the decision to go green—or at least greener—is driven by a desire to cut capital costs and operational expenses. But it's also no bulletin that consumers, particularly younger ones, increasingly base their buying decisions on a company's green practices, including how it approaches sustainability.

Companies that attempt to “greenwash” the public and shareholders with inflated and false claims place themselves at risk. At the same time, organizations like Greenpeace and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) apply growing pressure for organizations to adopt more environmentally friendly practices.

To be sure, it's no simple task to plug into positive results. "Many organizations have already plucked the low-hanging fruit,” says Accenture’s Rihani. “They've adopted monitoring systems and switched over to energy-efficient servers and computers. It's becoming more difficult to squeeze out improvements. Organizations must take a more sophisticated approach to green IT."

Plugging Into Gains

The greening of IT has clearly moved into the mainstream. According to a recent study conducted by IT reseller CDW, 54 percent of organizations in the United States have programs in place to manage power demand or energy consumption, and 32 percent of overall data center purchasing is green. In addition, 75 percent of respondents that have an initiative to manage data center power have trimmed IT energy costs in their center.

Today, many initiatives focus on virtualization and consolidation, which can deliver impressive results. But green IT also revolves around a number of other initiatives. These include more effective cooling approaches, energy-efficient and load-shedding uninterruptible power systems, procuring qualified Energy Star devices, increased use of hosting services, and building more efficient networks and applications. Nevertheless, CDW reports that only half of IT departments say their organization has asked them to reduce energy costs.

One organization that has charged forward with a green IT initiative is Lee County Public Schools in Fort Myers, Florida. The district, with about 100 campuses and 53,000 PCs, ranks in the top 40 in size nationally. It has operated the current data center for the about five years.

The district relies on about 80 high-density blade servers running in a virtualized environment, and that translates to approximately 300 virtual machines overall, says Dwayne Alton, director of information technology for Lee Country Public Schools.

Virtualizing servers and storage has paid significant dividends. Using VMware's enterprise platform, the district has pruned its server footprint by about 50 percent. It also has worked with CDW-G to install a storage infrastructure that has reduced the size of its storage requirements by upward of 75 percent.

Meanwhile, the district upgraded to a cooling system that forces air up from the floor and built channels within the data center so that air can flow more efficiently. It is now migrating to LED lighting to replace incandescent fixtures and older projectors.

This has led to about a 30 percent drop in power consumption, Alton notes. What's more, he believes that as employees and others turn to iPads and other tablets, power consumption will continue to decrease.

"Energy efficiency and cutting costs related to operating our IT systems are essential," he explains. "It’s a very important part of our mission and is likely to become even more important moving forward."

This article was originally published on 2012-09-18
Samuel Greengard is a freelance writer for Baseline.
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