5 ways to “Green” your IT

Evergreen in Detail
Creative Commons License photo credit: Rob Shenk

Running an Enterprise IT Environment has more cost than just the equipment and power that is used. Now we need to keep in mind the entire eco-system to run our infrastructure, from the power each machine uses to the amount of time people need to support it. Running a “Green” IT will not only help the environment, it will often relieve some of the stress on your IT staff.

Here are some steps your IT group can take to make your company more environmentally friendly.

5. Consolidate your storage

Do you have machines dedicated to file storage in your environment? Your company can take advantage of the SAN and NAS storage options available to consolidate these machines into 1 environment. Not only are you removing machines, you can also put together a system that is faster an more fault tolerant.

4. Recycle your old PCs & Servers

Did you ever consider how much power that computer sitting on your desk consumes? If you are not running Crysis at 1080p you probably don’t need a machine with a 500W power supply and the latest dual GPUs! For most employees a basic multi-core processor system with power management options and a low power supply meets their needs.

Even when I was developing enterprise applications, I rarely used all of the available power on my workstation unless I was running a load test… And in those instances I usually ran it in an environment dedicated to performance testing.

Evaluate your current environment and see if there are PCs and Servers you can consolidate. If you are evaluating a new server environment, look at blade technologies, where you can quickly add/remove servers that are very energy efficient.

At the very least, look at ditching those CRT monitors for LCD screens. Some of the older CRTs do not have standby options and consume up to 5x’s the power of a standard LCD monitor.

California now taxes all new computers with a waste pickup fee. This fee funds organizations who will take in your old equipment and dispose of it appropriately.

Don’t leave it on the curb with a “Free” sign on it!

3. Virtualize your server environment

There are a lot of products in this space including VMWare’s ESX Server, Sun’s Virtual Box and Microsoft’s Hyper-V to name a few. These products help you save power by sharing the resources of one machine with multiple “virtual” instances of computers. With the multiple cores found in todays servers, it is possible for your company to consolidate most of your environment on one machine.

This helps with Software QA/Test environments which might only be used by a few developers to develop the application.

You can also use some of the tools available from these same vendors to run local instances on your local machine instead of running it on another box. Microsoft Virtual PC & VMWare are readily available and they allow you to create instances on your local machine, but they do not offer the same management tools as ESX and Hyper-V.

The added benefit is also 1 less machine to support, less power consumption and as an added benefit, better disaster recovery! Imagine having an image of your system that you can quickly restore on any machine!

2. Use the built in “Power Saver” features in your computers

Most computers produced in the last 5 years have power saving features that can be leveraged using the operating system. Microsoft Vista and XP have power saving options. You can easily access these by going to “Control Panel” -> “Power Options” in either system.

Here you can define the settings for your computer. You can determine how long the machine sits idle before the monitor and hard drive turn off. Next would be sending your machine to “Standby” or to “Hibernate” mode.

Standby is still consuming power, but it turns off all unnecessary systems. The machine enters a minimum power consumption state that can quickly turn itself back on without having to load from disk. This is a start, but it still consumes energy since the computer is on.

Hibernate saves your current state to hard disk and shuts down the computer. The drawback is the user has to wait for the machine to come back to a stead state in order to resume their work, which can take a minute or two.

It may be possible to setup a group policy in Windows to push these settings out to your machines.

1. Turn off machines & monitors when not in use

Power On Button
Creative Commons License photo credit: LivingOS

Did you ever hear your parent’s ask you “Do you own stock in the power company?” when you were a child? Well, each machine that is idling, even if it is on standby, is consuming power. If you have a facility like we do with over 200 machines, this can add up quickly! Make a habit of walking the halls and turning off machines before you go home.

If your company installs patches/updates at night when your employees are not around, take a look at the “Wake on LAN” functionality build into most machines. This gives you the ability to start up a machine by sending it a command to it’s LAN card.

Intel has added additional functionality in their latest chipset with “vPro” which also gives you the ability to manage your machines remotely by starting them up if necessary.

If you can’t shut off the computer, look at just turning off the monitor off (not standby). If you look at a standard Dell LCD, it consumes 49 watts when in use, and 5 watts when in standby… If you left that monitor on all the time, it would consume (49 W) X (24 hours) X (365 days)/(1000 W/kW) = 429 kW/H. Even if it is on standby, it is consuming 44 kW/H!

If you look at the same numbers if the monitor is only on 8 hours a day, that number is significantly lower – 143 kW/H & 15 kW/H respectively for 365 days a year… Not taking into account the savings from having it off on weekends and holidays, that is a difference of 286 kW/H!

You can see how these numbers add up, and each kW/H is also producing CO2 from the power plant.

Just taking into account some of these tips will save your company money in the short term and as an added benefit make your environment smaller and easier to manage.

If you are interested in learning more about software virtualization, take a look at the Windows 2008 training and VMWare training we have to offer at ISInc. We also have classes on Windows Group Policy that can help push these settings out to your organization at large.

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