Extend the green approach to desktop technology

Many IT departments haven’t yet looked at saving energy of the PC fleets across their companies’ IT infrastructures, even if they have begun to make significant changes to how their data centres are powered and cooled.

That’s shortsighted. Although data centres may use more power per square foot, as a percentage of total power consumption, office equipment is the big kahuna.

“Office equipment has become more highly featured and powerful than ever before, but there’s an energy cost to that,” says Katherine Kaplan, who manages the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star consumer electronics and IT initiatives.

“If you look at overall power consumption, you’re seeing almost double for computers and monitors than for data centres,” says Jon Weisblatt, senior product manager of the power and cooling initiative at Dell Inc.

Verizon Wireless is one company that’s saving plenty of green by going green. Earlier this year, the wireless carrier deployed 1E Ltd.’s NightWatchman power management software, which is designed to put desktop computers and monitors in offices, stores and call centers into power-saving mode after a period of inactivity, overriding any personal settings. Another 1E product, SMSWakeUp, can “wake up” those machines to deliver patches and updates after-hours and then shut them down again when the process is complete. “It saved us [money] just turning computers on and off on demand,” says CIO Ajay Waghray.

Waghray also replaced 7,000 PCs in 10 Verizon call centres with power-sipping Sun Ray thin clients from Sun Microsystems Inc. and began a company-wide migration to LCD monitors. The managed thin clients use 30 per cent less energy than the nonmanaged PCs, says Waghray. He estimates that the power management and thin client initiatives combined have decreased the cost of front-office power consumption by US$900,000 annually.

To Waghray, going green is good business. The projects were good for customer service — off-hours patching and the more reliable thin clients improved uptime and reduced trouble-ticket volumes by 50 per cent. “To make things more efficient, simple and customer-focused, green becomes a very important factor,” he says.

There were an estimated 900 million desktops in use worldwide in 2006, according to market research firm IDC. Even if all of those units were Energy Star 2006-compliant, they would still consume 426 billion kilowatt-hours of power annually.

If all of that equipment met the 2007 Energy Star 4.0 specification, power consumption would be 27 per cent lower than it would be under the 2006 guidelines, according to Marla Sanchez, principal research associate at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. That would save enough energy to power all of Switzerland for nearly two years and cut greenhouse gas emissions by about 178 billion pounds.