Marriott International Inc.

Security guards now keep tabs on the thermostats, too.

At Marriott International Inc., green initiatives come in all sizes. On the high end is the decision made by the $13 billion global hospitality company to lease underground space from Iron Mountain Inc. to accommodate its new data center. At 220 feet below ground, temperatures in the former limestone mine hover at a naturally cool 55 degrees Fahrenheit, so the cost of cooling the space is less than half the cost of cooling an above-ground data center of similar size. The site, in which an underground water supply will cool equipment via chilling towers, will double as a data recovery and development center.

On the much lower end, Marriott raised its air-conditioning temperatures 10% to 15% by simply adding a task into the daily routine of its security guards. As the guards make their rounds, they now monitor the thermostats in the data center.

"You can make a huge difference by doing the small things that aren't capital-intensive but still have a big impact on carbon footprint," says Dan Blanchard, vice president of enterprise operations.

Through virtualization, Marriott has so far reduced the number of servers in its server farm by 53%, which in 2008 provided a savings of $3.7 million. Its goal is 100% server virtualization. And despite a 27% increase in processing power and 32% growth in DASD volume, power consumption hasn't increased, thanks to server virtualization, hot/cold aisle isolation, high-efficiency cooling technology upgrades, insulation work and regular hardware refreshes.

On the desktop, Marriott activated built-in power management capabilities, reducing energy consumption by 60% for laptops, 59% for desktops, 93% for CRT monitors and 86% for LCD monitors. It's also working to replace desktop PCs with thin clients, which use 50% less power per device, Blanchard says. So far, it has implemented 5,575 thin clients.

On the procurement side, the company purchased more than 9,700 Energy Star-compliant PCs in 2008. It also works with manufacturers to identify which of their products are designed to be more sustainable and efficient, according to Sharon Dorsey, senior director of technology sourcing and life-cycle management. Dorsey is also on the board of advisers for EPEAT, a program of the Green Electronics Council designed to help purchasers evaluate the environmental attributes of computer products.

In fact, Dorsey feels so responsible that when hiring vendors to recycle Marriott's computers around the world, she takes pains to perform ample due diligence to verify that all the companies in the chain of custody are reputable.

On the recycling front, her efforts have paid off. In all, Marriott has kept more than 629,408 pounds of e-waste from ending up in landfills, Dorsey says.

Brandel is a Computerworld contributing writer. Contact her at marybrandel@verizon.net.

Next: No. 12, Austin Energy. With a new virtual environment, applications run on 150 servers instead of 600.

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