October 25, 2010, 2:21 PM — Marriott International Inc. isn't counting on big new advances in green IT. Instead, the Bethesda, Md.-based hospitality giant is counting on incremental changes to make its IT operations more eco-friendly.
"This green initiative is more like a marathon than a sprint," says Daniel Blanchard, vice president of enterprise IT operations. "And the farther along we go, the deeper we have to dig to find those opportunities."
Since it opened a new data center 220 feet underground in 2009, Marriott has made an effort to continually ramp up its environmentally friendly IT operations, Blanchard says.
In the past year, the company upped the temperature in its data center five to seven degrees and switched a significant portion of its chillers to a closed-loop-based system, cutting power consumption by about 10% and saving nearly 800,000 gallons of water annually. "We went from using a lot of water to using virtually no water," Blanchard says.
And since it's always on the lookout for ways to save on energy, Marriott last year bought 13,699 Energy Star-compliant PCs, monitors and printers, says Blanchard.
Meanwhile, he says, the company is planning to install sophisticated software to manage its server environment, powering down machines when they're not needed, much like power management software does for PCs.
The most unexpected aspect of Marriott's green-IT initiatives has been the lack of resistance from other departments, says Daniel Blanchard, vice president of enterprise IT operations. "That goes back to green being a big part of our corporate culture," he says. "Around here we say, 'We are all guests on this planet.' "
Brian Babineau, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group Inc., says that as leading green companies like Marriott move ahead, their challenge is to continue to find IT infrastructure improvements and identify areas where technology can change business processes to yield environmental benefits. "What you see is more of this concept of sustainability, where they put more recurrent efforts in place to do the right thing as an organization," he says.
Blanchard says the IT department is able to maintain its environmental focus partly because Marriott's executives have made it a priority. They created the Green Council and gave IT leaders the authority to implement green strategies. The company also relies on staffers to suggest ideas for green innovations.
"What we're expected to do and what we do is integrate impact on the environment into everything," Blanchard says.
Pratt is a Computerworld contributing writer in Waltham, Mass. Contact her at email@example.com.