A lot has been written about green computing over the past several years, but a number of issues have hindered a more serious look from executive management at many organizations. Some C-level people felt that the costs associated with going green outweighed the benefits. Employees within the business functions thought they needed to have their data isolated on their own servers. Facilities managers thought they were entirely responsible for power consumption initiatives and viewed green IT ideas with suspicion.
However, the notion of sustainable computing finally seems to be hitting a critical mass, and for the usual reason: money talks. Most people underestimate the amount of energy consumed by an organization that is attributable to technology and the cooling and auxiliary infrastructure required to maintain it. When the magnitude of these savings is brought to light, attitudes tend to change. We’ve reached a tipping point, and as we head through a recession, everybody is looking for ways to cut costs. The edict is coming from the C-level executives on down, and nothing is off the table.
As Gwinnett County, Georgia, has explored green computing, we’ve discovered that the following five green IT projects should yield a tangible return on investment (ROI).
1. Server consolidation and virtualization. We started with a couple hundred servers in Gwinnett County, but we inventoried them and discovered that 10 to 15 percent weren’t being used and could be eliminated. We then consolidated our server population from more than 200 down to close to 100 by utilizing virtualization technologies. As new purchases are made, we also are moving to new energy-efficient hardware that can cut power consumption by more than 40 percent compared with older technology.
2. Power management software tools. Almost everybody leaves their machines on when they leave for the day, and it’s relatively easy to implement software that will power down or hibernate devices that have been inactive for a period of time. The challenge is to identify which devices must be left on and to educate users. For example, those who travel may need to move files to a network drive or take copies on USB thumb drives, eliminating the need to leave their desktop PCs and monitors powered on in order to remotely access data on their local drives.
3. Upgrading to energy-efficient equipment. The temptation is to get as much life from a server as possible, but we found that the total cost of ownership to maintain an aging server tends to be more than it would cost to replace it with a more powerful and energy-efficient model. We have found that new energy-efficient blade servers can double performance and use far less power. When you’re looking at hundreds of servers across the enterprise, that power reduction does have an impact on the bottom line.
4. High-efficiency power supplies. This is often overlooked, but those "wall warts" that ensure that certain servers, desktops, and other equipment continue running in the event of a brief power outage consume a good deal of energy. Newer uninterruptible power supplies are high-efficiency and use 40 to 60 percent less power than the old models. You can replace the existing ones with energy-efficient models in a very cost-competitive manner—typically for less than $100 each for smaller models.
5. Green-friendly procurement policies. The imperative is to build green computing into the lifecycle of computers by specifying that only devices that adhere to green computing standards may be purchased. There’s a lot of technology equipment still being sold today that is noncompliant—at initial glance it may look cheaper, but don’t be fooled. An energy-efficient monitor will yield a higher ROI over its total lifetime, and the extra $30 you spend at purchase time will pay off three- or fourfold in terms of energy savings.
Green computing has taken hold, and with good reason. Events such as Oracle OpenWorld and the COLLABORATE conference hosted by the Independent Oracle Users Group, Oracle Applications Users Group, and Quest International Users Group have made significant efforts to go green. In fact, Oracle itself has been recognized as one of the top green computing companies. After all, it’s both good business and good social responsibility—a true win-win if ever there was one.
John Matelski is chairman of the International Oracle Users Group Community (IOUC) and a member of the board of directors of Quest. He is the CIO and director of IT services for Gwinnett County, Georgia.