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The Economic Meltdown and the Mandate to Reduce PC Energy Consumption Costs

Created: 15 Nov 2008 • Updated: 02 Apr 2009
Eugene the IT guy's picture
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The past three months have been one huge roller coaster ride. Watching the meltdown on Wall Street and the political machinations surrounding it seemed so surreal—at least until the reality began to hit home. It arrived in the mail in the form of my 401K statements and my daughter’s college education fund. It was accentuated when my brother-in-law, Chuck, and sister-in-law, Sue Ellen, lost their jobs, defaulted on their home mortgage, moved into their RV, and parked it in the driveway of our house. (I’m convinced they are close relatives to Ellen Griswold’s cousin Catherine and her husband Eddie in the National Lampoon’s Vacation series starring Chevy Chase. More on them later.)


Reduce PC Power Consumption

It became a reality at work when we announced earnings and released our forecast for the next quarter. The “Warlord” took aggressive action, working with his executive management team to implement a series of different initiatives focused on cost reduction and operational efficiencies. Among a number of different directives, he and his team passed down an edict to the IT department to reduce power consumption by 30 percent on our more than 10,000 workstations and laptops, equating to more than $600,000 in cost savings by the end of the September 2009 quarter. Of course, the “C-Man” (the nickname we gave to our CIO) conveniently took the order and passed it down to me, indicating that I should “figure it out”—and quickly.


I sat in my office the next day, twirling my “secret decoder ring around my finger” in the hope that it would magically transmit a solution. The “Patman,” who works in finance, apparently had received a similar challenge, as I spied him sitting in his cube spinning his Patriot’s hula doll around and around.


Brainstorming with Red Bull

After spending a couple of futile hours playing with my secret decoder ring and watching the “Patman” fiddle with his hula doll, I decided to call a special staff meeting for a brainstorming session. It was an interesting session. “Caffeine,” who has a hot water pot in her office and drinks enough tea every morning to keep a normal person awake for an entire week, brought a case of Red Bull to the meeting, indicating the extra caffeine would boast everyone’s mental capacity fourfold.


As soon as everyone on the team had imbibed, the ideas started to fly around the table. “Berkeley” had the most interesting solution. He proposed that we build a large transformer in the parking lot. Every employee with a hybrid car would install a converter outlet on their vehicle and plug it into the transformer upon arriving for work every morning. The siphoned energy from the vehicles would then be distributed across the campus facilities and used to power everyone’s desktops and laptops during the day, thereby reducing the energy spent on powering the desktop and laptop environment.


While certainly an innovative solution, the team ultimately decided that Berkeley’s recommendation simply wouldn’t fly outside of People’s Park and we moved on to other ideas. The solution actually came to me when Chuck sent me an email asking when I was coming home. His uncle had given him two desktop systems for his two kids, and I’d helped him configure them so that the kids could do their homework from the RV at night. We had encountered a problem, however, as the battery on the RV would only power them for about two hours before it would go dead. In his email, Chuck indicated that he had found a solution. Specifically, as the kids weren’t on the computers for two consecutive hours but rather on them for 20 minutes, then off playing or eating for 15 minutes, back again for another 20 minutes, and so forth. In short, although the computers remain on for two or three hours, the kids actually use them for an aggregate hour or so.


“Chuck” and the Energy Saver Toolkit

Chuck indicated he’d found a software solution while doing a Google search. A product called Altiris Energy Saver Toolkit from Symantec would allow him to instate a shutdown policy, whereby allowing him to shutdown each of the desktop systems when they are not in use. I quickly did a little research and discovered the solution is free utility. As we already had Altiris Client Management Suite from Symantec, implementing the Energy Saver Toolkit would be a logical next step. Berkeley—energized at the chance to work on a Green IT initiative—volunteered to lead the charge in rolling it out across the entire PC computing environment.


Within one week, the solution was live; a quick post-implementation assessment showed an average utility cost reduction of 35 percent. We had meet the directive from the Warlord without uncovering a solution from the magic decoder ring or even the Patriot hula doll. The C-Man was thrilled with the team’s strategic thinking and almost immediate solution and invited me to attend the Patriot’s next home game with him (as he has season tickets on the 50-yard line) as his special guest. However, I wasn’t able to go due to a problem in the data center that arose at the last minute. Instead, as he had gotten wind of the reward, I ended up sending Chuck in my place.


Dinner with the C-Man in the RV

I’m now sitting at home awaiting his return from the game. I only hope that I still have a job in the morning with Chuck spending the afternoon eating hotdogs and drinking beer with the C-Man. His parting remarks on how he was planning to invite the C-Man over for dinner in the RV next week are still echoing in the inner caverns of my mind.


Hey Eugene, we’re pleased to hear how Chuck stumbled across the Altiris Energy Saver Toolkit and were excited to hear how it enabled you to quickly meet the PC energy consumption mandate passed down from the executive management team. It may also be of interest to you that Symantec has other Green IT solutions that can help you reduce energy consumption in other areas of your computing environment. 

Message Edited by Eugene the IT guy on 11-22-2008 10:57 PM