Green IT is more than just a worldwide movement to reduce the impact of IT products and services on the environment. It’s also about politics, a company’s reputation, and its corporate responsibility. But regardless of what it’s all about, Green IT works.
“Many companies are going green because it’s the responsible thing to do,” says Stanley King, president and CEO of The Alchemy Solutions Group, a global consulting firm. “We believe that over time the economic research around green will eventually justify the decision.”
Depending on the specific application and the technology available, there can be a significant economic benefit to going green, especially in IT. “IT professionals are fortunate in that green technologies are typically available to the IT industry before they are available to other industries. Green IT applications are leading the global green initiative and are the first to emerge with the tangible economic research to justify the decisions,” King says.
IT’s about efficiency and saving money
“In the early days it wasn’t called ‘green’,” says Mark Peters, industry analyst and consultant at the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG). “But it’s always been about efficiency or power and cooling or space.”
According to Peters, as the world’s financial situation started deteriorating in 2008 and 2009, things changed. “The idea of efficiency resonated much more than Green IT,” he says. “But underneath the covers, it’s still the same thing. Whether it’s Green IT or efficiency, it’s about using fewer resources.”
But where do you begin? For example, must organizations with older data centers consider outright replacement of expensive hardware?
A person and a plan
Peters says that first and foremost you need someone specifically assigned to implement Green IT. “You can’t do this when you’re focused on getting applications running or buying hardware,” he says. “You need to have someone—whether the person is full-time or part-time—to make it happen. You need a point person. That’s when success happens for both the company and for IT—and for going green.
“Then you need a plan,” Peters emphasizes. “You can’t just glibly say one day, ‘Oh, we’re going green. I bought some disk drives that use less power.’ One, it won’t happen, and, two, yeah, you bought some more efficient disk drives, but you might be spinning them all the time. Moreover, you might not have the right type of data on them. Further, do you really know if you are optimizing the benefits of those disks, even if they use less power?”
According to Peters, the number one task is to determine how much you’re spending on power. “Once you determine IT power consumption, you have a baseline from which you can calculate going forward,” he says.
Call it creative Green IT
For Qualcomm, Green IT can sometimes be defined as working more efficiently within the space that currently exists.
“Whether we’re looking at storage or servers or whatever, IT still needs to do the job and be able to expand. But how?” asks Paul Ferraro, an IT director at Qualcomm. “We get creative. We figure out what we can turn off or retire. While that wasn’t such a big deal in the past, now it’s something we seriously consider at the beginning of a project.It’s second nature, because we’re not planning to build any new data centers in the foreseeable future. So we have to figure out some other way.”
Before implementation, Ferraro and his team look at the different aspects of a project. “We consider how we’re going to get more horsepower out of a group of devices or this particular array,” he says. “Virtualization is our key strategy, so we look at the power footprint at the beginning and then again after implementation. That gives us a pre- and post-validation point.”
Ferraro emphasizes: “The bottom line is that we have to learn to use what we have more efficiently. We have enough space in our shop; we just need to use it in the right way and in the right places.” Indeed, according to Ferraro, Qualcomm has saved about $3 million this year by using storage space more efficiently.
Three good reasons
“There are three reasons why it’s important for Symantec or any other company to go after Green IT,” says José Iglesias, vice president of Global Solutions in Symantec’s office of the CTO. “The first reason is all-around cost. Quite simply, Green IT makes economic sense. Symantec has been able to demonstrate that by reducing power consumption in our IT data centers. We’ve saved a lot of money.
“The second reason for going green is that many customers or potential customers are demanding it,” Iglesias states. “For example, Walmart is demanding that its suppliers—and Symantec is one of them—demonstrate how they are reducing electric consumption and, hence, their carbon footprint.”
Iglesias emphasizes that Green IT is even important for attracting talent, IT and otherwise. “The third reason is simple: many people want to work for a company that’s ecologically responsible. We must be able to demonstrate to our employees—and our shareholders— that we have a robust sustainability story that’s relevant to our business.”
A recent Total Operational and Economic Impact analysis, conducted by The Alchemy Solutions Group and sponsored by Symantec, found significant value in both realized and projected savings in a variety of areas for Symantec. The company’s approach focused on the data center and was multi-faceted:
Eliminating idle equipment
Closing and/or consolidating data centers
Minimizing new server installations by consolidating existing servers through virtualization
Eliminating redundant data (email data in particular)
Identifying and harvesting unused storage space
Implementing a centralized solution for remote office backup and recovery processes
The results were significant and a testimony of the benefits of practicing Green IT. For example, Symantec energy cost avoidance resulted in a saving of more than $2.1 million.1
It’s more than just the data center
In a recent ESG survey, metrics used by IT managers to evaluate the success of their organization’s green initiatives found that 40 percent of respondents indicated their companies realized a reduction in energy requirements associated with data center/computing. 2 And while the data center is the most obvious place to look for Green IT savings, efficiency at the endpoint is also critical to overall savings.
There are enormous cost reductions—from reduced energy consumption, to desktop and notebook computers. Many companies have deployed custom power management profiles to put PCs into standby mode after a specific period of inactivity, particularly evening hours when most of the workforce is gone for the day. For example, as a result of decreasing the amount of energy consumption from idle desktop devices, Symantec was able to save $801,000 or $50 per desktop annually for its San Francisco Bay Area locations.
Beyond the data center and clients, employees have inadvertently been participating in green initiatives.
“Consider the size of batteries in our cell phones 10 years ago,” says King of The Alchemy Solutions Group. “Then think about the battery in our cell phones today. Not only is the battery significantly smaller, the storage capacity is significantly greater, and the consumption requirements of the phone itself are considerably lower.”
According to Peters of ESG, “Some people look at Green IT as simply reducing the impact of IT products and services on the environment and saving money. But when you consider the overall results, it’s really about consuming less and making more money. And there’s nothing wrong with that.”
1 “Symantec Corporation: The Green Data Center,” Business Value Analysis Study, The Alchemy Solutions Group, October 2009, go.symantec.com/green-bva.
2 “Green Business and IT Initiatives,” ESG Research, July 2008.
Brian Heckert is the manager of content development and editing at Symantec and a managing editor for CIO Digest.