Energy efficiency -- no longer an afterthought

Modern energy efficient technologies are becoming the norm, and most businesses understand that implementing "green IT" helps the environment and the bottom line. But many IT professionals lack a tool that is critical to understanding the full impact of energy efficient practices.

According to the Energy Efficient IT Report from CDW, 27% of IT managers never see their department's share of the energy bill. Without that information, IT may have a difficult time seeing the value and impact of their energy efficient efforts and policies. Most important, they may have a harder time making the business case for more energy efficient investments.

THE BASICS: Green IT Research Center

Consider the National Association of Realtors (NAR), North America's largest trade association with more than 1.1 million members. The association is composed of residential and commercial real estate brokers, real estate salespeople, appraisers, counselors and others engaged in all aspects of the real estate industry.

Like many organizations surveyed by CDW, NAR's IT management does not see its department's share of the association's energy bill, making power usage somewhat invisible. Yet NAR's IT team had a list of goals that stretched beyond a power bill, such as saving space in its data center, increasing its computing power, reducing management costs and, above all, reducing its carbon footprint and supporting green initiatives.

With the help of CDW, NAR undertook several changes to become more energy efficient and upgraded its network and data center. It also took advantage of virtualization and server consolidation, which reduced NAR's energy consumption significantly, both in cooling and server operations.

Through virtualization, NAR reduced its server racks from 20 to just seven, making equipment more manageable for the IT staff. Additionally, the equipment was easier to cool because it was more efficiently spaced, which increased the data center's computing power within its limited space. At the end of the project, NAR achieved the efficiency goals it set out to pursue -- all while realizing an estimated $100,000 in annual savings due to reduced power use.

NAR's pursuit of a greener data center aligns with its support of green initiatives. In 2008, the Real Estate Buyer's Agent Council (REBAC), a wholly owned subsidiary of NAR, established the Green Resource Council. Founded with a goal to provide knowledge of green real estate practices, the council focuses on delivering ongoing education to its members while providing them with up-to-date green resources and marketing tools.

This allows members to promote NAR's Green Designation, to build consumer and builder awareness, and to support green real estate advocacy. Residential, commercial, and property management professionals who earn NAR's Green Designation receive training, education, and tools necessary to understand and promote green real estate practices. Through its energy efficient upgrades to its network and data center, NAR further embodies the green practices it advocates through the Green Resource Council.

What is new

CDW's third annual Energy Efficient IT Report, which surveyed 756 IT professionals from U.S. organizations, found that things are improving in the world of energy-efficient IT. The report found that two-thirds of IT managers believe that understanding best practices in energy-efficient IT is vital to their professional success. Further, the percentage of IT managers who believe that energy efficiency is a "very important" consideration when purchasing new IT equipment has increased significantly during the past year, from 26% in 2009, to 39% in 2010.

Organizations are also looking for new and different ways to reduce energy use. Like NAR, many IT managers report they have or are developing a consolidation strategy, and most are deploying some sort of innovative approach to reduce energy use, such as installing more power efficient switches and using their networks as a platform to manage energy use.

Most important, energy efficiency efforts are paying off. According to the Energy Efficient IT Report, more than half of organizations that have or are developing programs to manage and reduce IT energy use have seen significant reductions in their IT energy costs. In the case of NAR, energy reductions led to an estimated $100,000 in savings. To aid other organizations hoping for similar results, CDW respondents recommend the following energy-reducing practices:

➢ Deploy more power-efficient core switches

➢ Replace edge and workgroup switches with more power-efficient switches

➢ Use the network as a platform to manage and reduce energy use

➢ Adopt 10GB Ethernet, Infiniband technologies

➢ Reduce SAN infrastructure by implementing Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE)

➢ Move to top-of-rack models for access layer switching

Although there are many strategies to become more energy efficient, organizations report they are still struggling to allocate funds for energy-efficient IT programs and modern equipment. Cost concerns, however, may be more perception than reality. When asked about upfront costs, just 17% of IT managers surveyed said they believe the cost of energy efficient IT equipment is prohibitive. That makes sense; much of what can be accomplished in the data center involves reconfiguration and decommissioning rather than a one-to-one replacement of old equipment.

CDW's Energy Efficient IT Report revealed that best practices in energy efficient IT lead to major benefits -- not only due to cost reduction, but also, as NAR found, in the organization's computing power per square foot. It is clear that energy efficiency is no longer an afterthought -- it is a key consideration for any IT professional.

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This story, "Energy efficiency -- no longer an afterthought" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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