Network World's top 12 green IT products

"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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