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Why green IT is good for business

Robert L. Mitchell | Oct. 22, 2013
As these companies have discovered, when IT projects focus on operational efficiency, sustainability benefits usually follow.

Ian Bitterlin, chairman of The Green Grid's EMEA Technical Work Group and CTO at Emerson Network Power Systems, says there are three steps to maximizing efficiency: Cut consumption, make IT processes more efficient and think about alternative energy — in that order. "If you put them in the wrong order, you'll just waste renewable energy," he says.

Virtualization End Game
When it comes to reducing consumption and improving operational efficiency, consolidation through server virtualization still offers the biggest bang for the buck. While many IT organizations are working to virtualize more of their legacy server infrastructures — FedEx is now 80% virtualized — Raytheon has already reached the finish line. "All legacy servers have been transitioned, [and] as a result, 2013 will be the last year that we capture and report on the energy and cost savings," says Brian Moore, IT sustainability program lead. The emphasis now turns to desktop virtualization using energy-sipping thin clients, e-waste reduction, and the use of analytics and data center instrumentation to monitor, manage and reduce energy use.

At Northrop Grumman, server virtualization was part of a data center consolidation effort, completed in August, that eliminated 4,000 physical servers while consolidating 19 data centers and 81 smaller server rooms into three facilities. But like its desktop power management program, which cut energy use for desktops by more than 21%, the server virtualization was driven primarily by a desire to improve operational efficiencies and the bottom line. Helping the company's GreenNG environmental sustainability program achieve its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25% — a goal attained just one year into the three-year initiative — was a bonus. "Power consumption reductions were one of the benefits, but it was just part of our overall IT transformation strategy," says Brad Furukawa, vice president and CTO for Northrop Grumman's shared services division.

While server virtualization is well established, many organizations are still just getting started with desktop virtualization. But First National of Nebraska is well into a project to replace between 70% and 80% of its desktops with virtual desktops accessed through thin clients. The move will cut the hassle and headaches associated with disposal of desktop e-waste, which has been piling up in warehouses. "It was driving us crazy," says James Cole, senior vice president and CIO at the financial services firm.

First National of Nebraska has even extended the concept of virtualization to its chillers. It uses an off-premises utility that provides chilled water to multiple tenants in the local business district. Normally, each business would have its own closed-loop system, each with its own excess capacity. Virtual chillers let each business share capacity, improving energy efficiency and cutting costs, says Cole.


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