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Top 12 Green-IT Users: No. 2 Discovery Communications LLC

By Robert L. Mitchell
February 15, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - For Discovery Communications LLC, energy efficiency in IT isn't just about saving money -- it's about keeping up with a brand that's focused on saving the planet. The entertainment company, known for its cable TV networks Discovery Channel, TLC and Animal Planet, among others, recently received a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for its Silver Springs, Md., headquarters.

IT is following that lead. "We're trying to figure out how you build out a tech center to be green-compliant and take advantage of that," says CIO Dave Kline.

Despite the hoopla around all things green these days, Discovery's top-down approach is ahead of the curve. A recent Forrester Research Inc. survey found that just 15% of U.S. companies have green-IT plans, although another 40% say they're working toward that. "It's a small slice of the corporate world so far," says analyst Christopher Mines.

Kline's IT organization is off to a good start. The company conducts regular audits of its server, storage and network equipment to make sure everything is fully utilized. It has consolidated storage into a single shared pool using Network Appliance Inc.'s FlexVol technology, and it used VMware Inc.'s virtualization software to reduce its server count from 850 to 535 physical machines. Disk-to-disk backups have replaced backup tapes, eliminating the need to transport those tapes off-site.

Discovery did the right thing by focusing on an audit first, since abandoned servers are a common problem. "Many companies have servers that are running but not doing anything," Mines says. He says companies should focus on this and other "quick wins" -- such as unblocking air vents and adding blanking panels in data center equipment racks to optimize airflow -- before moving to bigger projects, such as server consolidation and virtualization.

More Info

David Kline and Larry Laque

Location: Silver Spring, MD
Website: www.discovery.com
What's special: Conducts equipment audits to ensure full utilization; consolidated storage into a single shared pool; and reduced its server count from 850 to 535 physical machines.
What's cheap: Raised temperature set points a few degrees in its data centers.

Kline followed that same strategy on the cooling side. The company sealed up server racks, moved to a hot aisle/cold aisle design to optimize airflow and then installed high-efficiency chillers. But it also saved energy by simply raising temperature set points. Many data centers are overcooled, so settings can often be turned up without causing problems, says Mines. "It doesn't have to be meat-locker temperatures in there," he says.

Discovery says that energy savings have approached 20% since the data center was re-engineered, high-efficiency chillers were installed, and server, storage and networking equipment was consolidated.

Outside of the data center, Discovery has encouraged workers to telecommute and teleconference. IT issues a laptop to every one of its 3,619 employees who require a computer and provides secure remote access and voice-over-IP capabilities. All laptops have power management capabilities enabled, and users are encouraged to turn off the computers at the end of the day. "Thirty percent of the staff telecommutes at least one day a week," says Kline.

In 2004, Discovery installed teleconferencing systems to cut down on business travel. "Teleconferencing has a huge ROI for us because it's a cheaper use of people's time," says Kline.



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