Network World's top 12 green IT products

Editor's Note: Network World and our sister publication Computerworld teamed up this year to conduct a "green IT" survey. The goal was to identify organizations that are implementing smart, efficient strategies to achieve green IT and to identify the most popular green IT products and technologies in use today.

Invitations to fill out the online questionnaire were sent to the IT community through a variety of channels, including e-mail newsletters, e-mail broadcasts and social media. Ninety-five organizations completed the survey during the May-July time frame.We then contacted representatives at the participating organizations to verify that the information provided on the survey was truthful and accurate. Only organizations that filed verification letters were considered.

Based on a weighting scheme, Computerworld selected its top 12 Green-IT Users and top 12 Green-IT Vendors.

Network World asked respondents to identify their most useful and effective green-IT products . We narrowed that list down to the 12 that got the most mentions. (Watch a slideshow version.)

Solar panels on the roof? Nope. Wind powered turbines? Negative. Air-side economizers? No. Photovoltaics? Biofuels? Nanotechnology. Not so much.

Energy bills rising? These tips may help

Fancy, new energy saving gizmos and technologies were hardly mentioned by our survey respondents, 95 in-the-trenches IT execs. Instead, we found IT managers focusing their green efforts on cost-effective, nuts and bolts products, technologies and tactics that don't require huge capital expenditures.

And we found that money-savings green initiatives aren't limited to the data center. IT execs are thinking green from the desktop monitor to the recycling bin to the copy machine.

The move beyond the data center is an important one, says Forrester analyst Doug Washburn. He cites recent Forrester research showing IT playing a central role in corporate sustainability efforts at 38% of 476 organizations surveyed.

Whether they're turning down power at the desktop or instituting technology enabling the paperless office, IT will find greater opportunity for financial and environmental savings the more they look outside the data center, Washburn says.

Here are the top 12 areas where survey respondents are going green.

IT efficiency

Energy-efficient server hardware

People's picks: Dell PowerEdge servers, Fujitsu Primergy BX900 blade servers

What makes them green: IT leaders are demanding energy-efficient hardware, and vendors are listening. That's particularly true when it comes to server hardware, where performance-per-watt is improving markedly thanks primarily to improvements at the processor level, says Andy Lawrence, eco-efficient IT research director at The 451 Group.

"IBM, HP, Dell - they're all putting a lot of thought into how servers are designed for efficiency. For example, they're putting more effort into the number and placement of fans, airflow, use of power supplies and converters. And these all can add up, and combined with power management at the processor, we've seen rapid progress in the last few years," he says.

That said, buying energy-efficient servers alone isn't enough. There needs to be a larger green strategy that includes better utilization of server resources.

"In practice, you'll see people replace an old machine that's running at 30% utilization with a new one that's more energy-efficient but only running at something like 8% utilization, so they're not always seeing the benefits," Lawrence says.

Real efficiency gains require careful planning and management of server workloads, Lawrence adds. "Then they'll save considerable amounts of energy immediately and be able to justify the investment in new hardware."

In their own words:

"Reduces power consumption from between $550 and $2,000 per year per server." (HP blade customer)

"Enhanced power management capabilities built into Dell 11th generation servers allow for more granular control of devices, maximizing power consumption savings."

Server virtualization software

People's picks: VMware ESX and VMware vSphere

What makes it green: The most commonly reported green IT project, server virtualization allows enterprises to reduce infrastructure by consolidating many virtual servers onto fewer physical ones. As enterprises shave 30% to 50% or more of their physical real estate they see associated power and cooling requirements head downward, too.

In their own words:

"By aggressively virtualizing on Dell's power-efficient blades using VMware technology, we have been able to radically increase the OS density of our data centers within the same power footprint. This has allowed us to completely avoid building a new data center at a savings of about $250 million."

"Virtual servers have contributed to a savings of 3 million kWh in 2009, and it is anticipated that they will save an additional 2.5 million to 3 million kWh in 2010, for a total two-year estimated avoidance of up to 6 million kWh.

Server power management

People's picks: IBM Active Energy Manager

What makes it green: While desktop power management is a commonly used IT tool, server-side power saving isn't. "Data center managers preferred practice is to turn servers on and leave them that way forever," Lawrence says. "They need to be weaned off of that practice."

With server power management, IT managers not only can monitor energy requirements, but can cap power usage and place servers in power-savings mode, for example.

"In an ideal situation, you'd be able to read the utilization of all servers in a pool and move workloads off to a fewer number of servers, then turn some off - all in an automated fashion," he explains. "That'd take on the waste problem more directly and dramatically than has been the case in the data center hitherto."

In their own words:

"This software measures, monitors and manages the energy components built into IBM systems, enabling a cross-platform management solution. It extends the scope of energy management to include facility providers to enable a more complete view of energy consumption within the data center. It's part of our campus' standard portfolio toolset for ensuring optimal efficiency of IT assets."

Storage consolidation, tiering and virtualization

People's picks: Compellent Storage Center; EMC Symmetrix DMX and VMax arrays; Hitachi Data Systems Universal Storage Platform V; NetApp Data Ontap, FlexVol, shared storage

What makes them green: Enterprises are storing more data for longer periods of time, a trend that begs for ways to reduce a company's storage footprint. Archiving, compression, de-duplication, snapshots, thin provisioning - enterprises are grabbing onto any and all such technologies to achieve storage efficiencies, says Greg Schulz, founder of Server and StorageIO Group, a technology consulting firm.

"It's all about doing more with what you have. You need to process, move and store more, but in the same or smaller footprint. And that footprint is power and cooling, floor space, budget and people," he says.

Green storage is more than about avoidance, Schulz adds. It's about getting work done more efficiently, too.

For example, rather than running a database that needs 5,000 IOPS on 250 disk drives, put the heaviest-hit portions of that database on a pair of mirrored and protected solid-state disks. The rest of the data can use a smaller number of traditional fast disks while backups can go to high-capacity SATA drives, he says.

"In other words, rethink and re-tier. In a given footprint, you might be able to cut actual floor space in half, double capacity, boost performance and halve the power bill while still meeting all the business objectives," Schulz says.

In their own words:

"Consumed 8X less capacity by using thin provisioning and reduced data center space requirements."

"Eliminating tape, going directly to disk, and deduplicating, saved up to 80% on existing volumes. Quadrupled storage utilization from: 20% - 25% to 80% - 85%."

"Fewer drives enable us to reduce power consumption and sophisticated reporting tools allow the IT department to keep track of storage usage and run the systems more efficiently."

Desktop power management

People's picks: 1E NightWatchman, Microsoft Windows 7, ScriptLogic Desktop Authority, Symantec Altiris Client Management Suite, Verdiem Surveyor

What makes it green: Enterprise desktop power management software automatically places monitors and computers into low-power modes - sleep or hibernation, for example - after a period of inactivity or during off-hours. Idle, low-powered desktops can still receive security patches or other administrative updates. Desktops typically re-activate within seconds upon a mouse click or keystroke.

Desktop power management stands out as one of the three chief ways enterprises can achieve energy-savings, Lawrence says. "If you're going from a completely unmanaged to a managed environment, you'll normally see a fairly significant savings right away," he says.

The federal government's Energy Star program estimates that enterprises can cut the amount of electricity needed for desktops in half, saving $25 to $75 per PC annually, by using power management software. Likewise, automatically placing desktops into low-power states will reduce office cooling loads to the tune of another $5 to $25 per PC annually, depending on climate, Energy Star says.

However, Lawrence cautions that desktop power management benefits really don't start accruing for enterprises unless they've got at least a few hundred PCs. "But certainly if you have thousands of PCs you could be saving maybe a quarter of your energy use per PC," he adds. "Over the course of a year that would add up quite significantly with almost no downtime or cost at all to the company in terms of performance or availability."

In their own words:

"The average energy cost for all of [our] desktop computers per workday with no power management is about $2,090.88. The company is saving almost 50% of its daily energy costs and consumption by utilizing the power management feature."

"We save about $2 million annually in power costs while significantly decreasing the carbon footprint of our desktop operations."

Flat-screen monitors

People's picks: Dell Professional P2311H, IBM Lenovo ThinkVision 23-inch Widescreen Flat Panel Monitor

What makes them green: Some of the biggest opportunities for green efficiencies lie outside the enterprise data center, Schulz says. "Monitors that use less energy but still provide a good picture and that automatically dim and have intelligent power management features built in can make a difference," he adds.

What's important is that accessories such as monitors don't get overlooked in the greening process, Schulz adds. "A lot of organizations perceive green as being only a certain set of things. They miss out by ignoring monitors, not thinking, 'Oh, if I change monitors I can get rebates and other incentives and, by the way, it'd be good for the environment."

According to Energy Star, if all monitors sold in the U.S. meet Energy Star requirements, energy savings could reach $1 billion each year and prevent greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to nearly 1.5 million vehicles.

Energy Star-qualified monitors must meet stringent requirements not only while on but also when asleep or powered off. In addition, IT buyers can look for monitors registered with EPEAT, a system for evaluating environmental attributes of electronic products, recommends Forrester's Washburn.

In their own words:

"Since 2008, we have been replacing CRT monitors with [IBM ThinkVision] flat-screen monitors, which provide better energy-efficiency, fewer materials used in manufacturing, less toxic components (e.g., CRT tubes contain toxic metals) and lower weight (reduces energy consumed in distribution)."

"It reduces our environment impact by lowering power consumption and it is partially made from recycled materials."

Data center infrastructure

Blanking Panels

People's picks: APC Airflow Management Blanking Panels, Upsite Technologies KoldLok Grommets

What makes them green: Blanking panels, which snap into unused rack spaces, are a must within any enterprise data center exercising sound air management practices, says Bob Doherty, founder and CEO of OMS in Your Data Center, a data center efficiency consulting firm, and editor of ComputerRooms.com.

"If you don't put a computer in one of your rack slots, and leave an opening, that means hot air from the back of the rack can infiltrate the front of the rack. A blanking panel will block it; you can even stick a piece of masking tape there and accomplish the same thing - not that that's really recommended - but you want to stop that airflow," he says.

"If you let hot air infiltrate the front of the rack, that's counterproductive to everything we're trying to do in the data center," Doherty adds.

Data center managers should have no excuses for not using blanking panels, he says. "They're cheap. They're quick to install. You don't have to call anyone in for help. They're wonderfully important and one of the most successful products for the data center."

In their own words:

"KoldLok has helped IT in its efforts to increase server cooling efficiency. In addition to utilizing blanking panels in all production server racks to decrease hot air blow-back, we have also modified perforated tile placement to better direct airflow to create hot and cold locations to maximize the cooling efficiency of CRAC [computer room air conditioner] units and installed KoldLok around open floor areas."

"These panels made a dramatic change in lowering the air temperature at the inlet side of servers. They were inexpensive and easy to implement."

"These devices have allowed us to maintain a higher level of static pressure in our floor plenums and as a result used the cold air provided by our HVACs more effectively."

Energy-efficient cooling

People's picks: Liebert Glycool CRAC units, Liebert XDV Vertical Top Cooling Module

What makes it green: Cooling systems are energy hogs within the enterprise data center, but new technology designs and evolving best practices are netting positive results.

Employing advanced airflow techniques; complying with warmer temperature guidelines from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, commonly known as ASHRAE; and using outside air are three examples of how enterprises are curbing cooling-related energy inefficiencies in the data center, says 451Group's Lawrence.

So-called "free cooling" systems, which take advantage of outside temperatures to bring cool air into data center, are the most significant development in new data centers, he adds. "But taking all these developments together, the energy waste in data centers - especially modern ones - is substantially reduced from even five years ago."

Using the power usage effectiveness (PUE) metric as a basis of comparison, Lawrence says the 2.3 to 2.7 ratings common not so long ago are being replaced in new builds by PUE measures of 1.2 or so. PUE, as determined by The Green Grid industry consortium, is the ratio of the total power going into a data center to the power used by the IT equipment there.

"So for every watt of IT load they're now using 0.2 watts vs. the whole watt used before. That'd be about an 80% reduction - that's not to say that's an average, but it is achievable," he adds.

In their own words:

"Being in the Northeast, these cooling units draw the cold outside air during the winter months, reducing the need for compressors to run to cool heated indoor air. This reduces electrical use and saves on wear and tear to the compressors."

Physical infrastructure management

People's picks: APC InfraStruXure Central, APC NetBotz Rack Monitor 550, Schneider Electric PowerLogic

What makes it green: With the real-time monitoring provided via physical infrastructure management, enterprise data center managers should have an easier time keeping tabs on power, cooling and environmental systems. This, in turn, should facilitate the ability to optimize for efficiency.

"We have smart systems, we have dumb systems, like thermometers and humidistats, and we have something in between," says Doherty of OMS in Your Data Center. "The smart systems are complete software systems that may manage your computer room for you based on predetermined metrics, and those are starting to evolve quite efficiently and successfully."

That's a good thing, Doherty adds.

"We always thought controls on the CRAC units and the computer room air handling systems managed the facility well. That's a thing of the past," he says. "We need more help. We need to be more proactive. ... And if we ever want unmanned facilities, we've got to have centralized management systems that we can access 24/7 from the Web."

In their own words:

"These devices allow real-time monitoring of the temperature and humidity levels throughout the data centers. With the ability to set operating parameters on the devices, we have tied the sensors into our trouble-ticket system and can receive instant notification of any abnormal readings. Likewise based on the real-time readings we are able to make 'set point' adjustments to our HVAC units to perform at optimum levels."

"It's ensuring our environment is continuously optimized for high-quality services at minimal costs for power and cooling.''

Green enterprise

Telepresence, Video Collaboration & Videoconferencing

People's picks: Cisco Tandberg Movi and TelePresence video collaboration systems, HP SkyRoom video collaboration software, LifeSize videoconferencing systems

What makes them green: Clearly, enabling far-flung employees to collaborate visually without hitting the road or taking to the skies means fewer carbon emissions.

But truth be told, reducing the corporate carbon footprint is really just a nice offshoot of the real reason enterprises adopt such technologies - to save on travel-related greenbacks, says Ted Ritter, senior research analyst with Nemertes Research.

Nemertes research shows room-based videoconferencing, long-touted for its ability to cut travel expenses, already in use at nearly 82% of organizations, Ritter says. That percentage drops considerable desktop videoconferencing, with only about 30% of organizations allowing its use. However, another 50% of organizations say they do plan to use the technology, he says

At this point, full telepresence is the least adopted of these technologies, at 21% deployed among organizations, Ritter says. Uptake is three times as likely at global organizations rather than at those with domestic operations only, he adds. Again, this type of organization can point to a telepresence initiative as being environmentally friendly but that won't have been the driving force. Return on investment would be, Ritter says.

What users say:

"Minimizing the environmental impact by reducing employee travel."

"Saving participants in a customer meeting $100,000 in travel costs while also reducing emissions by an equivalent of more than 62 metric tons of carbon dioxide."

E-waste & IT asset recycling

People's picks: Allied Computer Brokers, Converge, Intechra Group, Redemtech

What makes it green: In August, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that preventing e-waste and its "irresponsible management" was one of its top six global priorities.

The decision is no surprise given that the world's fastest growing toxic waste stream comes from computers, mobile phones and other electronics, according to the Basel Action Network (BAN), a leading global source of information and advocacy on toxic trade and international hazardous waste treaties. Tossing your old computers and other IT gear in the company dumpster is bad green policy.

"For me, electronic waste is the litmus test of how green an enterprise's green IT program really is," says Simon Mingay, a Gartner research vice president.

"Unfortunately, whilst anything to do with energy-efficiency has become cool and sexy over last couple of years, electronic waste - like pretty much all waste - is the uninteresting, unsexy, dirty end of the equation that nobody wants to get at. But it's a huge problem, a substantial and material environmental impact of IT," he says. "Often we find organizations have done a huge amount on energy-efficiency and relatively little on electronic waste, in which case what they've got is a partial environmental program or in fact strictly just an efficiency program."

Part of the challenge is cost. "E-waste is one of those areas for which if you do the right thing, it's probably going to cost you money," Mingay says.

And simply passing along your outdated gear for another's use isn't necessarily good environmental policy, either, Mingay cautions. A lot of those items will end up in developing countries, which rarely if ever have the infrastructure in place to handle electronics recycling. "In the end, they'll end up in a landfill anyways," he says.

Enterprises can find "good" disposal practices for their electronic equipment through BAN's e-Stewards Initiative, which offers a recycler certification and guidelines through the associated e-Stewards Standard for the Responsible Recycling and Reuse of Electronic Equipment, Mingay recommends.

In their own words: "The Converge service has provided a global solution for recycling and remarketing our e-waste compliantly and reducing our overall environmental impact."

Using a local recycler, "allows us to safely dispose of technology products that are past usefulness with a vendor that is trusted and proven over the course of time."

Going paperless

People's picks: CSC Enterprise Print Solutions, EMC Documentum, HP Secure Print Advantage, Notable Solutions AutoStore, Xerox Enterprise Print Services and SMARTdocument Travel

What makes it green: How much environmental impact going paperless will have on your enterprise is highly dependent on the nature of your business. "But given that the paper industry is a massive consumer of energy and significant producer of greenhouse gas emissions ... everyone and anyone should be looking at paper as an area of their business to which they should potentially be paying attention," Gartner's Mingay says.

"And while we can argue whether paper is an IT or a business issue, the reality is that fixing it usually falls to IT," he adds.

Those fixes have to go beyond the quick-and-easy measures surrounding paper wastage at the printer. Yes, those are important, says Mingay, noting that roughly 15% to 20% of organizations have addressed "the eminently sensible low-hanging fruit" and are now taking the next step. That next, more difficult, move is to scrutinize business processes and challenge why paper needs to be involved in those, he says.

"Bottom line," Mingay adds, "going paperless is absolutely a wise thing to do in many organizations."

In their own words: "Fewer unclaimed print jobs being generated has resulted in reduced paper usage. Through December 2009, the company's paper usage has decreased by approximately 21%. This equates to saving 200 trees, 58,421 gallons of water, 14,665 kWh of electricity, and 215 pounds of air pollution."

Schultz is a longtime IT editor and writer in Chicago. You can reach her at bschultz5824@gmail.com.

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.

This story, "Network World's top 12 green IT products" was originally published by Network World.

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