JM Family: Eliminates more than 1,400 physical servers

A systematic approach to sustainability includes a high-powered solar array, leading to No. 12 on our list.

The IT shop at JM Family Enterprises has taken the typical steps to make its data centers eco-friendly: It has consolidated systems, virtualized servers and set up hot and cold aisles to drive down energy consumption.

Such initiatives have enabled the widely diversified Deerfield Beach, Fla.-based automotive services company to eliminate more than 1,400 physical servers and avoid using more than 5.5 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually over the past several years.

But IT leaders thought they could do more, so they invested in alternative energy, installing a solar energy array at the company's Alpharetta, Ga., data center. The array is capable of supporting 100% of the data center's power requirements and eliminating an annual release of 205 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

The switch to solar is one of many sustainability initiatives that the company's IT unit has undertaken.

Vice President and CTO Shawn Berg says IT has been actively involved in such projects since 2006, when it first started to virtualize data center servers.

"We've always focused on community and the environment; they were core issues for us," Berg says.

Virtualization, which has been an ongoing, multiyear effort, was IT's initial step toward a more formal, systematic approach to sustainability that the company adopted in 2008, Berg says.

In addition to virtualizing servers, the IT department has adhered to a rigid equipment refresh cycle to ensure that the company uses the latest, most energy-efficient systems. And the Georgia data center, built in 2009, has many green features in addition to its solar array.

Now the IT department is focused on adopting green efforts in other areas, Berg says.

This year, JM Family started a virtual desktop project under which IT aims to eventually provide all employees with virtual desktops. This will help cut down on the amount of e-waste the company generates and reduce energy consumption. JM Family estimates that the thin clients will use 80% less energy than traditional PCs.

IT also helped implement a print reduction initiative this year, Berg says. The goal is to cut paper consumption by 12,000 pounds per year.

And in an effort to further reduce its impact on the environment, Berg says, JM Family is looking at the possibility of sharing data center space with other companies.

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