Marriott International Inc.

Marriott International Inc.'s efforts to lower its IT power consumption over the past few years reads like the ultimate "green makeover" list.

Virtualization software from vendors such as VMware Inc. has helped the hospitality giant reduce its server population by more than one-third over the past three years. Storage virtualization and archiving technologies have enabled the company to slash its storage energy costs by more than 50% over that same period. And five of the 10 rooftop air-handling units above the company's data center were replaced with the highest-rated units available (a SEER, or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, of 13).

But probably the coolest thing Marriott is doing right now is taking place 300 feet below ground, in a former Pennsylvania mine. There, in a facility owned by Iron Mountain Inc., the company is building a second data center that it expects to complete by year's end. The mine maintains an ambient air temperature of 53 Fahrenheit.

"By choosing this location, we are absolutely certain that we'll be able to lower our power consumption from an equipment-cooling perspective," says Wendell Fox, senior vice president of Marriott's information resources shared-services group.

Although Marriott's subterranean lair might sound a bit unusual, it isn't all that uncommon, according to IDC analyst Chris Ingle. He points to a British retailer that owns vast stretches of underground tunnels and is using one of its burrows as a disaster recovery site.

"There are often quite interesting things that larger companies can do to make use of these resources," says Ingle.

Marriott has also replaced more than 5,000 desktop PCs with thin clients, cutting power consumption per device by 50%. Last year, Marriott replaced 38 public printers at its headquarters with more-efficient Energy Star devices. That helped reduce its carbon footprint by 36 tons annually, says Sharon Dorsey, senior director of Marriott's information resources technology management center. That's nearly the same amount of carbon dioxide discharged by a Hummer driven 60,000 miles a year.

Of course, some of Marriott's applications aren't conducive to virtualization, including its reservations system and other tools with high-availability requirements, says Fox. Still, the company is archiving some data that's infrequently accessed onto slower-speed spindles. Fox says a disk drive that spins at 7,200 rpm consumes eight times more power than a disk spinning at 3,700 rpm. Ingle says Marriott's approach reflects what many other companies are starting to do.

Marriott has also become environmentally sound in the disposal of IT assets. Since contracting in 2005 with Intechra LLC, a Jackson, Miss., asset disposition company, Marriott has recycled more than 18,000 printers, monitors, peripherals and other systems, says Dorsey. That represents nearly 200 tons of plastics, transistors and other materials that didn't end up in landfills.

As a mother of two, Dorsey says, "it's important to me that I help leave a legacy to my kids so that there's a world for them to live in in the future."

Next: No. 11 Monsanto Co.

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