Green IT: For IT Staff

For IT Staff: Green Practice Makes Perfect

Since IT is such a big consumer of electricity, IT professionals have many opportunities to help reduce electricity consumption. Many of these changes can be very effective in reducing power costs while being minimally invasive to business processes. Strategies can be aimed at two areas: Outward facing changes that have a direct effect on end-users, and back-end changes on servers and in the data centers.

Make computing decisions which will promote green IT

  • Configure the power settings on end users' computers to conserve energy, either individually, through your domain environment, or through desktop management tools. For more information on this see Desktop Power Management Intiative article in "examples of success".
  • Configure printers to print double-sided by default. If you are using a print server to spool documents for printing, enable the duplex setting as a default option if possible. If you don’t have a print server, define duplex settings in the printer’s driver on each machine. This is not typically possible via Group Policy, so may be something you want to include in your build images or enable next time you’re at a client’s desk.
  • Encourage the purchase of laptops. Many users have both a desktop for regular use and a laptop for traveling or working from home. It is likely that a modern laptop will have enough computing power to serve the user well, so combining a laptop with a good keyboard, mouse, and external monitor can result in a comfortable and fully functional workstation with less redundant functionality and lower electricity consumption.
  • Work to make sure large equipment powers down after hours. Some devices that stay fully powered all day and all night, even when not in use, may have a standby function that reduces electricity use. Large multifunction printers can often be configured to sleep after hours, and wake either at a certain hour or when a user accesses them. Some environmental controls for server rooms can be configured to reduce cooling during hours where servers are under reduced workloads.

Virtualize your environment to reduce energy consumption and carbon footprint

Virtualization has brought dramatic change to computing infrastructure. In addition to greatly simplifying systems management, deployment, and operation, virtualization also makes it easy to realize significant power savings thanks to hardware consolidation. According to a Gartner report, every virtualized server saves 4 tons of CO2. Reducing the number of physical servers can save machinery costs, as well as hundreds of dollars in electricity costs per year. Even greater savings can be realized by converting traditional desktop inventories to thin clients.

  • VMWare, the industry leader in this field, has a product called vSphere that allows virtual machines to be located on physical hardware dynamically according to guest demand. See VMware’s page on energy efficiency for more information. Though they aren't quite as advanced, Microsoft's Hyper-V and the open source Xen virtualization technologies also allow for power savings thanks to consolidation.

Give your server room an energy makeover

Server rooms often grow organically, but given an opportunity, some power-saving layout decisions can save on energy costs and reduce wear and tear on equipment.

  • Implement hot and cold server aisles. By having cooling directed at a “cold aisle” where all of the servers on either side of the row have their intakes, cold air can be ensured for circulation through systems while avoiding hot air is exhausted away from servers.
  • Cool racks instead of the entire server room. Many closed racks provide in-rack air conditioning or even liquid cooling which can dramatically save on the volume of air being cooled. These racks may be more expensive initially, but can reduce costs over time.
  • Be tidy with your cabling. As power, ethernet, and other cables get plugged into racks, they can form a solid wall that prevents proper exhaust and can result in heat seeping back into the servers it was just exhausted from. By making sure all cables are channeled away from the backs of servers, servers can run cooler and live longer.
  • Consider using heat exchangers that direct heat where it might be used. Heat generated by data centers can be channeled to other areas to provide heating in the cooler months.
  • Consider using properly treated outside air to cool your server room. Very often outside air is cooler than the ambient temperature of a server room, so adjusting it to the proper humidity and using it to help cool a server room can result in less reliance on air conditioning. Technologies like heat wheels can facilitate this.

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Date Posted: March 1, 2013 Tags: Green IT

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