October 25, 2010, 2:34 PM — George Washington University was witnessing a familiar trend: rising power use -- and corresponding increases in energy costs.
"The bills were going up and up and up, and at the same time there was a lot of talk in higher ed about energy consumption," says CIO David Steinour.
The IT department took action, a move that dovetailed with university President Steven Knapp's decision to make sustainability one of the Washington, D.C.-based school's four strategic initiatives.
Information systems engineer Brian Mislavsky says the IT department has been working on server consolidation and virtualization for the past five years, a project that has yielded big savings by reducing the use of energy, equipment and space. The university now has about 65% of its servers virtualized, saving more than 800,000 kilowatt-hours annually. It's working toward reaching the 80% mark by 2012, Mislavsky adds.
Moreover, its new data center, which opened in January, was designed, built and equipped with environmentally friendly systems and energy-efficient products.
Doug Washburn, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc., says these strategies put George Washington University among the leading organizations that have developed a strategic vision for being greener.
GW CIO David Steinour acknowledges that there are challenges to implementing his green-IT agenda, mostly coming from people who resist changes in the way they work. But he says that won't slow down his department. "I think the biggest surprise we've had is in terms of the recognition and the support from the community," he says. "We've won a few awards, I've done some speaking, and we've put the challenge out to other universities to do something."
"Right now, 50% of organizations around the world have a green-IT plan in place and are actively implementing the strategies. And if an organization does have broader initiatives under way, that's where IT is asked to contribute," he says, noting that reducing energy consumption through server consolidation and virtualization is often the first step.
The university's IT department is working on green initiatives that move beyond cutting energy consumption. It is pushing the use of document imaging, which cuts back on the use of paper and toner as well as the energy used to print, copy and store paper files, Steinour says. The department is also careful about how it disposes of old technology, donating some equipment to charity to ensure that each piece is used for its full life cycle, and then recycling the rest.
Pratt is a Computerworld contributing writer in Waltham, Mass. Contact her at email@example.com.