Interop: Green IT in the spotlight

IT execs debate impetus for green IT: saving money or social responsibility

Is green IT about saving money or social responsibility?

The topic was tackled during two conference sessions at this week's Interop New York trade show. The consensus was that it could be both -- but the real driver towards a green initiative is greenbacks.

"It's cyclical," said Paul Dunn, senior network analyst for Miami-Dade Public Schools, about the push for environmental responsibility. "In the mid-1980s and 90s, there was a green initiative that faded away for a while. The trend to save money is a no-brainer, even if the (ecological) trend goes away."

"It's about efficiency as much as it is about anything else," said Johna Till Johnson, president and senior founding partner of Nemertes Research, of the dual-pronged impetus for green initiatives.

The drivers are there: Most servers use 50 percent of their rated power even when idle, so they're using 50 percent of electricity but doing 5 percent work, Johnson said.

That means that for every 100 servers only five are in use. Turning off the other 95 would result in 47.5 percent efficiency, she said. In addition, for every productive dollar gained from servers, almost two dollars are wasted in UPS, AC/DC conversions and fans, Johnson said.

Even so, 80 percent of companies recently surveyed by Nemertes have no corporate green policies; only 13 percent knew data center energy costs; only 3 percent turn off their servers when not in use; and desktops are left on 50 percent of the time.

Just turning off servers and desktops when they are not in use can cut power bills for those devices by 40 percent, Johnson said.

That's what Miami-Dade Public Schools did. The school has 120,000 endpoints deployed over 370 sites and used to keep the computers on 24/7, 365 days a year for patch management, Dunn said.

Then Florida had a statewide budget crunch so school districts across the state had to find ways to save money. Turning the systems off has saved Miami-Dade US$4.2 million since last October, and reduced its carbon footprint by 50 million pounds, Dunn said.

Clearly, Miami-Dade's initiative began as a cost saving measure. But it did require the cooperation and support of the faculty and students at each school, Dunn said.

"We had to go to the CFO to get the project and funding approved," he said. "We were spending $8 million per year in electricity just to keep computers going. But the buy-in had to be from grass roots, the school sites. Their cooperation made it happen. Kids don't care about saving money but they do care about green initiatives."

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