Firms that talk green IT aren

For mid-sized companies that have already taken advantage of “quick-win” green IT initiatives, the next step should be to institute IT energy measurement plans, according to industry consultants.

Even though sustainability projects have fallen down the priority list in 2009, most firms have continued to take advantage of low-hanging fruit for immediate cost-cutting opportunities, said Elise Min, a research consultant with London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group Ltd.

After a recent study of over 800 organizations, Min found that while print consolidation, PC power management and IT equipment recycling saw high adoption rates, the vast majority of companies were not investing in energy consumption tracking or green auditing projects.

“IT energy management is the key to understanding your organizations current consumption patterns and establishing benchmarks,” Min said.

Without this component in place, organizations will find it difficult to effectively track their progress, set priorities and brag about their successes, said David Senf, director of infrastructure solutions at Toronto-based IDC Canada Ltd.

“Few firms take the time to measure power consumption at a granular level,” he said. “The large enterprise segment in Canada is doing a better job than the SMBs, but that’s not saying much given the low numbers IDC is seeing in midmarket green activity.”

Many companies don’t know how many kilowatts per hour a server or PC consumes, how much money they can potentially save on power and cooling costs, or even how many total IT assets they have, Senf said.

“That only 29 per cent of midmarket firms, with 100 to 999 employees, turn PCs off (or hibernate them) when not in use is embarrassing,” he added.

According to Info-Tech’s research report, a significant spilt can be seen among global firms. While 40 per cent of companies anticipate difficulty in getting project funding over the next 12 months, 41 per cent of companies anticipate an accelerated implementation of cost-cutting and green-related initiatives in that same time period.

While Min predicted continued adoption for server consolidation and end-user device power management, green projects such as building LEED-certified offices or performing environment audits will be difficult to justify for cash-strapped businesses.

She added that the companies who are able to successfully present green initiatives as cost-cutting projects and continually review and reset their environment targets and goals will be in the best position when the economy recovers.

“One organization in particular that we were able to interview installed sub-metering equipment at the row level of their data centre,” Min said. “That enabled them to not only configure their storage devices and consolidate their storage devices, but through that measuring they were also able to figure out optimal usage for each row and consolidate accordingly.”

In Australia and Europe, Min added, third-party environmental audits and green reporting are beginning to take off in popularity, giving CIOs even more visibility into their environmental footprint.

Both IT energy measurement and third-party environmental audits were lacking in North American take-up, she said, with many companies overlooking basic IT energy management practices.

“Some organizations aren’t even reading their power bills carefully from their utility companies,” Min said. “That’s the first step you could do to get a better breakdown on what your data centre is pulling as well as what your other departments are doing.”

For IT managers looking to seriously explore energy management, Senf offered up a few tools to get started.

Verdiem Corp.’s Edison application is a free tool for getting individual employees thinking about their own carbon footprint and how they can reduce it. EcoSuperior’s computer energy calculator is another freebie that can provide a good starting point for midmarket and smaller firms looking for PC power management, he added.

For the larger enterprises, Victoria, B.C.-based TerraBytes Consulting has a Green IT guide and toolkit which offers a spreadsheet for tracking energy consumption and providing a baseline for future measurement. Senf also pointed to SynapSense Corp., which offers a live imaging tool where users can actually view a heat map of their data centre.

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