Five tips for low-energy business computing

By Robert L. Mitchell, Computerworld |  Green IT

First, the data center dialed back its power consumption. Now it's the front
office's turn.

Concerned about soaring energy costs, IT organizations have begun to make significant
changes to the way their data centers are powered and cooled. But many IT departments
haven't yet looked at saving energy by targeting the rest of the company's IT
equipment.

That's short-sighted, say IT organizations that have been down this road. The
reason -- data centers may use more power per square foot, but as a percentage
of total power consumption, it's office equipment that's 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 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 centers," says Jon Weisblatt,
senior product manager, power and cooling initiative at Dell Inc.

Verizon Wireless is one company that is saving plenty of green by going green.
Earlier this year, the wireless carrier deployed NightWatchman power management
software from 1E Ltd. that puts 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, automatically "wakes
up" those machines after hours to deliver patches and updates, shutting
them down again when the process is complete. "It saved us [money] just
turning computers on and off on demand," says CIO Ajay Waghray.

But Waghray didn't stop there. He also replaced 7,000 PCs with power-sipping
Sun Ray thin clients from Sun Microsystems Inc. in Verizon's call centers and
migrated to LCD monitors companywide (a process that's still ongoing). Replacing
nonmanaged PCs in 10 call centers with 7,000 managed thin clients cut energy
use for that equipment by 30%, says Waghray. He estimates that the two initiatives
combined have cut front-office power consumption by $900,000 a year.

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%. "Just do business to make things
more efficient, simple and customer focused, and green becomes a very important
factor," he says.

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

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