by April 5, 2008 0 comments

The entire world today is abuzz with green. No, it’s not green with envy, but
green as in becoming more eco-friendly, environment friendly, etc. Just about
every vendor worth its name today has already introduced or is in the process of
aggressively introducing green IT products, right from hardware components
manufacturers to large scale data center solution providers.

The reasons for this are simple. IT is a must for every business, and as the
business grows, an organization needs to invest more in the IT infrastructure.
With the rising cost of energy, more IT equipment translates to higher costs of
power consumption, and also more space, which anyways comes at a premium. So if
products continue consuming the power they have been consuming, then it could
have serious implications. Last year, Gartner estimated that ICT accounts for 2%
of global CO2 emissions, which is same as the aviation industry. That’s a high
figure by any means, and unsustainable as suggested by Gartner.

The other problem with ICT is that products like PCs, laptops, etc have short
lifecycles, due to which they become obsolete after a few years. After that, if
they’re not disposed off properly, then they can be harmful to the environment.
So manufacturers have to comply with directives like ROHS (Restriction of
Hazardous Substances) to minimize risks from e-waste, and organizations that use
them must dispose them properly after they become obsolete.

Given all this, organizations need environment friendly and energy efficient
products to reduce their costs and become more efficient. So obviously as a CIO,
you have a tough challenge in your hands. You need to purchase more power and
eco-friendly IT equipment, to reduce your energy costs and also show some
responsibility for the environment. But this can’t be done at the cost of
reducing the efficiency of your IT infrastructure because the entire business
depends on it. CIOs need products that consume lesser power but don’t compromise
on efficiency and performance. Besides products, there are many technologies and
techniques to make your organizations more energy efficient. Finally, to deploy
all these products, technologies and techniques, you need a proper strategy,
along with the right policies and practices.

So the obvious questions are–How do you go green? What are some of the
challenges you’re likely to face on this path? Which products, technologies, and
techniques are available for doing it and how do you choose the right ones?

To find answers to these questions and more, we surveyed 144 CIOs from
various organizations across the country to find out where they stood as far as
going green was concerned.

Awareness about green IT
While nearly 56% of the CIOs whom we surveyed were somewhat familiar with
the concept of Green IT, a good one fourth of them were fully familiar. That’s a
good sign, and shows the growing importance of Green IT. Out of those CIOs who
were fully familiar with the concept, nearly half had it as their top priority,
and were pursuing it aggressively. The other half had it on the cards, but
hadn’t done anything concrete about it yet.

In fact, 52% of the overall respondents said that it was there on the cards,
while another 22%, irrespective of their familiarity level with the concept, had
it as their top priority.

The concerning result was that nearly 22% of the respondents didn’t have a
green IT strategy at all, and their reason for this was primarily a lack of
awareness. They were just not sure what Green IT really meant, so how could they
possibly have an action plan for it? So let’s first clear the air about the
concept of Green IT itself.

Green IT, in brief
In brief, Green IT deals with efficient usage of computing resources in an
organization, so that it’s not only economically viable, but also environment
friendly. The important thing to remember here is that economic viability isn’t
associated with the initial cost of acquiring a product alone. It’s also
directly linked with the energy consumed by that product, and how many global
standard it adheres to (like Energy Star, ROHS, etc) so that it can be managed
efficiently throughout its life and even when the time comes to dispose it off.
The first part, higher energy consumption, translates to higher electricity
bills-simple. And with increasing energy costs everywhere (and the state of
power problems in India in particular), it’s important to understand how much
energy do your computing resources consume. By doing that, and by choosing
products that consume lesser energy, you could end up doing considerable savings
in your electricity bills.

The good news is that most vendors today have a focus on making their
products more eco-friendly and energy efficient. So, you’ll find everything from
more energy efficient PC components like motherboards, hard drives, etc to
everything in the data center, right from the storage infrastructure to servers,
networking, power conditioning, and air conditioning equipment. The concern is
how to choose the right equipment and roll out your green IT strategy? There are
many challenges involved in this process.

Challenges in going green
Four challenges associated with going green are:
1. Determining the RoI from using Green IT products
2. Adopting and implementing a Green IT Strategy
3. Convincing top management about rolling out the strategy, and finally
4. Choosing the right partner to help you with your strategy
We asked our respondents to rate the difficulty levels of the above challenges.
The interesting result was that 50% or more of the respondents found all these
challenges to be ‘somewhat difficult’ to overcome, and nearly another 20% felt
that they were rather easy. On a scale of 1 to 5, the ‘somewhat difficult’
rating would fall at number 3, which is average and the ‘easy’ rating falls at
2. In other words, most organizations don’t find going green such a tough task.
Only around 20% of the respondents felt that overcoming these challenges was
extremely difficult.
If we drill down specifically into the four challenges, then around 30% of the
respondents felt that choosing a green IT partner is extremely difficult.
Likewise, convincing top management about going green was considered easy by 26%
of the respondents. The next extremely difficult challenge was determining the
ROI, for 23% of the respondents.

Other Challenges
There are many other challenges associated with green IT, apart from the
four we’ve just described. One of them is availability, of both equipment and
the skills to go green. Though every vendor worth its name today is pushing
green IT, how do you decide who has the right products and skills to make your
setup green?

The other challenge, which again came out strongly was awareness about the
subject. Many CIOs felt that it’s important to first create awareness amongst
everyone about the need to go green, be it employees of the company or the
management. Power saving is everyone’s responsibility, and not just the CIO’s.
Others felt it important to draft out policies, and yet another major segment
was more concerned about budgets related to going green.

There were several concerns related to the budget. How do you replace
existing equipment, unless it becomes useless was one concern? One can’t just go
ahead and rip and replace all equipment. That would translate to significant
investments. Plus, even if one were to go for replacements, then what do you do
with the old yet working equipment? You need to determine ways of recycling
them. Then there would be the challenges of setting up new equipment, which
would require additional costs related to manpower, consultancy, etc.

The key thing to remember here is that it’s not as if you have to rip and
replace your entire IT infrastructure with green equipment. That’s neither
feasible nor practical. Green IT is a transition, which would take both time and
investment. It would require careful planning, which would first involve doing a
reality check of how green you really are today, and then deciding where you
want to reach.

Joining the Green IT bandwagon
Green IT is not a product that you can install and forget about, nor is it
an application, which you can implement overnight. Green IT is actually a way to
move forward with your entire IT infrastructure. The end objective of green IT
is to lower your operational costs and increase the efficiency of your IT
infrastructure. Meeting this objective requires a mix of both technology and
policies. Interestingly, policies can be both IT and non-IT related.

A green IT policy could be as simple as instructing all employees to switch
off both their PCs and monitors before they leave for the day. In fact, in our
survey, we asked CIOs about whether their employees switched off both their PCs
and monitors before leaving office in the evening. To our surprise, 65% said yes
to both, while another 23% said that they switch off the PCs, but often forget
to switch off their monitors. There were some who said that the PCs are left in
sleep mode so that the IT department can access them during after office hours.
We feel that it’s a good idea to ensure that both PCs and monitors are switched
off, unless there’s a very important reason to leave them on (like some
maintenance work by the IT department every now and then). CIOs can easily use
their network monitoring tools to figure out which PCs have been left on by
employees. For the monitors, as of now, there’s no way to remotely determine

Do a Reality Check of your IT infrastructure
The first step towards going green would be to assess the greenness of your
existing IT infrastructure. For this, you need to divide your IT infrastructure
into multiple parts, e.g. data center, your desktops and laptops fleet,
networking equipment, etc. For each, you could get an audit done to determine
the power consumption by each part, and also see how many of them are following
green standards like ROHS, etc.

The data center is of course, the most crucial part of the entire IT
infrastructure, and therefore requires a lot of planning. You would need to
further break it up into multiple parts like power conditioning equipment used,
air conditioning, servers, racks and enclosures, and other equipment like
storage, etc.

Besides getting your IT infrastructure audited, you also need to keep its
future growth in mind. How many PCs and laptops are you likely to purchase in
the near future, how much more networking equipment are you likely to add, how
much is the server density in your data center going to increase, are some of
the things to track.

Understand what’s available
Besides the obvious, today just about every hardware manufacturer is coming
out with green products. Over the recent past, we have in our lab received many
of them. From desktop motherboards to hard drives, network switches to a laser
printer’s toner cartridge, everything is going green. We reviewed a motherboard
from Gigabyte and a hard drive from Western Digital, both of which tout that
they consume lesser power. On the networking front, we received a network switch
from D-Link that consumes lesser energy. Another company called Extreme
Networks, which is into enterprise class network switches has won awards for its
green products.

With most vendors offering green IT equipment, it would make sense to change
your purchase policy. Sadly though, 44% of our respondents had no pre-defined
policy for it. However, there were a good 24% who said that they stressed on the
greenness of their IT suppliers. There’s one more option. You could also
incorporate a green clause in all your RFPs (request for proposal), and 19% of
our respondents have done just that. This would automatically ensure that your
vendor offers you the most power and eco-friendly equipment.

Determine the ROI
Once you’ve audited the power consumption of various parts, it’s time to
find out how much power can be saved if you replace them with more energy
efficient equipment. When it comes to data centers, the equation is slightly
more complex. You not only have to determine the energy consumption of equipment
like servers, you also have to determine the efficiency of air-conditioning to
keep them cool.

Not only that, but server density also needs to be taken into account, which
is increasing in most data centers, thanks to technologies like blade servers.
Higher server density produces more heat, which further requires precision

A few ways to go Green
Once you’ve done your ROI calculations and a reality check of your IT
infrastructure, you need to roll out your Green IT strategy. While there are
lots of things that can be done, we’ll concentrate on a few relevant ones here.

Replace your CRT monitors with LCD
How many CRT monitors are there in your organization as against LCD
monitors? Replacing CRT with LCD is perhaps one of the first few steps to going
green, and not without good reason. It is said that a LCD monitor will pay for
itself in two years time, just out of the savings it brings in your electricity
bills. Since the life of a LCD monitor itself is much longer than two years,
this benefit is definitely worth it. Moreover, since the prices of LCD monitors
have dropped significantly, it can be considered as a replacement to CRTs much
more easily now. Plus of course, it offers so many other benefits, like it
occupies lesser table space, causes lesser eye-strain, and emits lower radiation
as compared to CRTs. So it definitely makes sense to replace your CRT monitors
with LCD monitors.

Interestingly, 38% of the respondents to our survey had already done this

Server virtualization
This is a trend that has really picked up momentum across the IT industry,
and is a key technique being touted for going green. Every organization today is
combating with the evils of server proliferation, or having too many hardware
servers in the data center. There’s a server for just about every
application-mail, web, proxy, business apps, security, content management, file
serving, and so on. The sad part is that their average utilization hovers around
30-40%, if not less. And yet they continue to run 24×7 and consume energy even
when they’re idle. So, in effect, you’re paying the energy cost of servers,
which are idle almost 70% of the time. That’s not a very pleasant thought
indeed, which is why the whole concept of server virtualization has become so
popular. It helps combat this very problem.

Virtualization technology allows you to abstract the hardware from the
software. So a server, which traditionally runs a single OS and application in
the data center, is able to run multiple OSs and apps simultaneously, thanks to
virtualization. This would allow you to load a single server with more
applications and increase its utilization. This reduces the number of servers in
the data center, and also helps you defer your server purchase.

If you find this hard to believe, then what would you say to the 60% of the
respondents, who plan to implement server virtualization in the near future as a
part of their green IT initiative? Server virtualization topped the charts as
far as future plans of going green by our respondents was concerned.

Use renewable energy sources
Why depend upon the standard energy source to power your IT equipment when
you can use alternate energy sources like wind, solar power, etc. It might be
too expensive to power an entire data center on wind power today, and solar
power may not be able to produce sufficient energy for the job. However, you can
use solar power for remote areas. In fact, one well known company, Mahindra and
Mahindra Financial Services Ltd, has started using solar power to power its
computers in remote villages.

Renewable energy sources are gradually gaining importance amongst
enterprises. In our survey, we found that 31% of the respondents had plans of
using such sources to power their computing needs in the near future.

Disposing Off obsolete IT products
While you might purchase equipment that’s green, what would you do with the
old or obsolete equipment? Countries like the US are already coping with the
problems of e-waste. They’re finding it difficult to dispose off their waste IT
products. Even Indian companies have begun facing this problem. For instance,
according to some preliminary statistics, around 30,000 PCs become obsolete
every year in Bangalore alone.

So what do you do with all the IT equipment that’s become obsolete? 18% of
our respondents had no answer to this question, but actually, there are several
options available. It all depends upon the state of your IT equipment, and how
much of it do you have to dispose off. If you have lots of it, then it might be
better to auction it off. Or, there are many organizations who end up donating
their old PCs to schools who can’t afford them. In fact, 33% of our respondents
said that they hand it over to charity and needy organizations. Another 31% said
that they sell it to a scrap dealer, while 19% said they auction it off.

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