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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.

That's what happened to us at Dell two years ago. We hit the space limit on our data centres in Austin. We had two options: build another data centre, or squeeze more computing power out of our existing facilities using the same amount of energy. The difference between the two options in both expense and environmental impact was enormous. After all, the greenest data centre is the one you never build. Through smart IT planning, we've postponed indefinitely, the need for a new data centre, avoiding some $250 million in costs.

Think of the implications for taxpayers if government agencies linked their IT strategies to their power use and embraced the opportunities green IT holds. Every time a government agency issues a purchase order for hardware or software that isn't rationalised for its power use, taxpayers pay the bill. As with a data centre on a grid that can't supply any more energy, public departments can't get any more tax dollars; they can only get more computing for the dollars already in their budgets.

At Dell we got around to a smarter, more efficient and greener way of thinking about our computing strategies more than two years ago. The investment for organisations that want to do the same is relatively minimal and pays off quickly. The first step is to have power monitoring in the right places. Additional power monitoring is not expensive and is readily available. Simple steps like turning the lights off in our Cyberjaya data centre and ensuring the temperature at the midpoint in front of all racks is kept around 23 degree Celsius are things that can be easily adopted.

Finally, make your future hardware and software purchases based on power efficiency and look for ways to take advantage of virtual computing to increase the efficiency of existing IT investments. Replacing existing hardware and introducing virtualisation software can multiply your capacity by five-folds or greater in the same power envelope.

The savings from even incremental changes will be significant and immediate, but not if you overlook the key component to any organisational shift: responsibility. It's great to show your CIO the power bill, but if he or she isn't invested with the authority and responsibility for lowering it, it's just another slip of paper.

The writer is managing director and general manager of Dell's CSMB group in South Asia & Korea.


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