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BLOG: Why CIOs should see their power bills

Ng Tian Beng | May 16, 2011
The planet pays when CIOs aren't aware of information technology's energy cost.

The obvious first step for reducing any organisation's energy use is to measure it and find ways to lower it. So why is it that the overwhelming majority of CIOs - owners of their companies' information technology infrastructure and consumers of huge amounts of energy - never see a power bill?

As ludicrous as that sounds, this is actually quite common as the power bill usually goes to the facilities team. It's especially unfortunate when you consider that at a large company, technology can consume as much as 40 per cent or more of the power used.

Thankfully it's a problem that's easy and affordable to tackle. By using something as simple as a few electric meters, any organisation from businesses to governments can connect their IT and facilities department while slashing power usage and increase efficiency. In Dell's case, we managed to add 35 per cent more computing capacity without using one additional watt.

Once the CIO knows how much power all those machines and their related cooling systems are consuming, it's easy to find ways to be more efficient. For instance, a server in one location is running a particular software program with plenty of unused capacity, resulting in excess electricity consumption. Across the room, there's another server doing the very same thing. Now imagine the power of virtualisation software which lets one machine do the work of many. You'll be immediately saving power and money while minimising the environmental impact.

Here's another scenario - a data centre filled with server racks. They take cool air in through the front and blow hot air out the back. In an organisation in which the CIO doesn't see a power bill, the data centre isn't necessarily arranged for energy efficiency. You might have two server racks facing front-to-back, mixing hot and cold air and lowering the efficiency of the cooling process. In fact, most data centres are run far too cold--10 or 15 degrees cooler than necessary--just to keep a few hot spots from overheating. By rearranging your data centre to keep the hot air hot and the cold air cold, you can reduce power bills and improve system efficiencies by 20 per cent or more.

Simple solutions like these help minimise a company's environmental footprint. But this isn't being green for the sake of being green, there's an economic value to it too. Most organisations need to think harder about their IT power use just to cope with the explosion of data in this digital era. Even if you could spend unlimited money on power and equipment for your data centres, the power grid where your facilities reside might not be able to provide any more juice--or you could simply run out of physical space in your data centre.


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