Green IT’s bottom line

Quick: Does green IT help the environment, or you? “What do you mean? We only do this because we love flowers!” laughed Chris Pratt, strategic initiatives executive with IBM Canada. “A lot of emphasis in green IT has been on the environmental side rather than the hard-dollar value.”

This may be good for those aforementioned flowers, but not so good for the IT manager on a budget. We spoke to some IT companies about the real-life benefits consolidation, virtualization, and endpoint management can actually yield in these cash-strapped times — no greenwashing allowed.


It’s taken an awful economy and ever-spiraling energy costs to get IT managers thinking green. “A year ago, it was all about saving the earth. Today, with the economy, it’s all about saving money,” said Jose Iglesias, vice-president of global solutions with Symantec Inc. “It’s really being catapulted to the forefront, especially with the recent and upcoming legislation (enforcing better green practices and creating green incentives).”

Getting there hasn’t been easy. Take a look at the MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, said Luigi Mercone, senior director of product strategy with Symantec. “They’re sending Predators up in the sky. Do you think they have to worry about power? They get whatever they want,” said Mercone. “But eventually Florida Light and Power said, ‘Drop dead.’ They’ll have to build another power plant just to keep them in power. It isn’t in their interest — as long as they can contain the demand, they can stay profitable. Otherwise they have to buy electricity from neighbouring utilities. It’s non-tree-hugging.”

But how did we become such energy guzzlers, racking up enormous power bills? “It’s the same reason we’ve gone from 3L to 4L to 5L engines. People say, ‘You want me to save gasoline?’” according to Pratt. ”The vast majority of the human race reacts to the stick, not the carrot.”


Many IT managers might not know how hurting they are, however. “The challenge is that benefits and costs happen in different departments, and it can be hard to share the ROI if it’s at the departmental level,” said Jessica Vreeswijk, principal and green IT consultant with the Victoria-based Terrabytes Consulting.

Then there’s the fact that energy management has never been a high priority for IT, said Rick Huijbregts, vice-president of vertical industries with Cisco Canada. “And, typically, facilities people don’t really know about IT. They need to be brought together, for a more holistic approach.”

From there, it’s important to get energy costs onto the budget, said Francois Thibault, director of unified communication solutions with Cisco Canada.

“Who’s paying for it? Who benefits from it?” This will allow the IT department to really see the cost of wasted energy, and effect changes that can bring the company some more green.


Several high-powered IT companies have been putting their own technologies — and others’ — to use to reduce power costs and improve energy efficiency. They have shown that green really can come true, whether it be via consolidation, device management, or virtualization. And now the excitement is about the money saved, rather than the karma earned.

Over at Symantec, the company has put several of its own solutions to work to save money. It consolidated its servers using Veritas Cluster Server to reduce energy costs by 67 per cent, resulting in savings of $800,000 per year. By reducing the number of disk drives used by 70 per cent, $200,000 in energy savings per year is earned, said Iglesias.

Pratt cited a Canadian pharmaceutical company that was working with 33 physical servers and 83 cores that consolidated down to two physical servers and 32 cores. This meant a difference of 16 kilowatts, taking the energy costs from $16,900 per year to $2,600 per year. Another department in a financial company went down to 10 servers from 190, reducing energy consumption to 6KW kilowatts from 112, and reducing the power bill by $90,000 per year.

Growing in popularity is endpoint management. Symantec used Altiris Endpoint Manager on its 32,000 workstations to save $800,000 per year, Iglesias said.

Dell Inc. has also benefited from better energy management. Using NightWatchman, the company is saving $1.8 million annually, according to Kevin Smith, enterprise solutions brand manager at Dell Canada.

Cisco has EnergyWise on its side, a software application that sits on the core switch to manage the power consumption of IT. The application is available as a free add-on for Cisco customers, said Huijbregts.

He cites the example of a United States bank with 5,000 employees in 100 locations that had 5,000 IP phones and 500 access points. The application was able to power down these phones and points between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., saving $40,000 per year in energy costs. The next phase of EnergyWise will go live in the spring and will allow administrators to automatically power down laptops on the network.

A beta implementation of this functionality for an American enterprise-level company with 1,000 phones, 700 laptops, and 300 PCs resulted in savings of $75,000 per year.

The third EnergyWise phase will be rolled out this winter, Huijbregts said, and will turn any building control into an IP device that can be managed for optimal power efficiency.

Virtualization is also a fan favourite among the big IT vendors. “Virtualization, virtualization, virtualization. And if you’re not doing it, there’s something wrong with you. It’s just a computer word for doing more with less,” said Pratt.

Dell is one company that has netted huge gains from its virtualization implementation.

By running VMWare on Intel servers with EMC storage, the hardware vendor has achieved savings of $29 million over a year-long period. How many businesses can afford to turn down that many millions?

“Most companies act only when it reaches their threshold of pain. They’re not able to do it until it directly hurts them,” said Pratt.

“We have to think bigger. Just because we have something, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t save it.”