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April 26, 2010

"Greening" the IT Asset Usage

The usage phase of an IT assets' lifecycle is where most of the industry's "Greening" efforts are concentrated. Organizations are utilizing technologies like virtualization, centralized power management etc. to increase utilization of existing assets, reduce carbon emissions and cut down on operational expenses.

However, challenge lies in enabling employee involvement in the Green journey and not in implementing technology solutions. Also, as mentioned in my previous post, employee awareness & involvement can provide much higher benefit as compared to technology implementation.

I would like to divide this post into manual initiatives and automated solutions.

Manual Initiatives:

·        Business users must inform the IT organization when the assets are no longer required. Also, IT organizations should conduct periodic audits to track and report on IT asset usage by the business.

·        Laptop users must read and follow the battery care practices mentioned in laptop's user manuals

·        Learn and adjust the power settings in operating system according to one's way of working.

Following manufacturer's instructions and using OS power settings help in delaying the degradation of a battery. This offers multiple benefits in terms of frequency of charging the battery, reduced expenses due to longer battery life and of course reduced impact on environment resulting from avoidance of buying new batteries.

·        Do away with screen savers (there is a better saver for your screen: a monitor's 'off' buttonJ).

·         Turn off computers when not required.

·        Avoid printing unless it's unavoidable and try using recycled paper wherever possible.

·       The documents we make tend to go through a number of versions, if possible, delete the intermediate versions once the document is finalized. This would save storage space on PCs as well as servers and reduce the need for increasing storage space.

Automated Solutions:

·        Centralizing the power management for PCs and servers can go a long way in managing energy usage. Organizations can standardize the OS based PC power settings by implementing the same in a centralized manner. These small settings provide considerable financial benefits when taken in the context of entire organization, the bigger the organization the bigger the benefit.

Also, many software vendors are coming up with centralized power management software that tracks power consumption of relevant devices and powers them down if idle. Such software also handles patch management of powered down devices using features like wake-on-LAN. Hence, employees don't have to leave their PCs on after a day's work thinking about patches.

·        Printer management is another area that is important for "going green". It is possible to centrally implement power settings for printers. You can implement "sleep" mode for printers and optimize printers for double sided printing, secure printing etc to make sure that printers consume less power and there are no unnecessary printouts.

·        Last but not the least; organizations can employ virtualization technology to increase utilization of their existing assets. This technology is on the top of most IT manager's agenda these days due to the multi-faceted benefits offered by it. To list a few:

o   Decrease in electricity bill

o   Increased free space in data centers

o   Reduction in carbon emissions

I would like to conclude this post with a simple thought; optimizing the utilization of your existing assets by appropriate use of technology and process is more sensible economically as well as environmentally than buying new energy efficient assets. By doing that you would be saving on the cost of purchasing and handling of replacing existing assets with new ones as well as avoiding the carbon emitted in the production of new assets.

I hope this post would have provided some good pointers to employees and organizations to enhance utilization of existing assets. I will be back with my post on eco-friendly end-of-life management next Monday. Have a great and "green" week ahead! J

April 5, 2010

Paint the Asset Lifecycle Green for Sustainable IT

When I chose to blog on this topic, I remembered my recent visit to a restaurant and thought of starting with the analogy.

As I went inside and occupied a table, I took the menu card lying on the table and started selecting the items which would satisfy both my taste buds and my stomach. I was coming up with a list of items when my friend pointed towards the full meal which had almost all the items present in my list in addition to some exclusive soup. The full meal looked very organized with soup, main course, and a dessert.

Taking this analogy to the world of Green IT, there is a big list of processes and technologies that contribute to “Greener” IT in some way or the other and the CIO can easily choose from the list. However, the choice might not include all the components like my list of food items. IT Asset Management is something like the full meal with a focus on planning, procurement and disposal in addition to the in-use phase of an asset lifecycle (which is similar to the main course in the meal).

You might be thinking that we are implementing initiatives like server virtualization, data center consolidation, PC power management etc which provide great contribution in terms of organization’s Green IT objectives. However, according to a Gartner study, the percentage of CO2 emitted during the production phase compared to a product’s entire life-cycle is approx. 80% for laptops, 70% for desktop PCs and 25% for servers. So, let’s go into flashback of a laptop’s life and focus on what happens before it is used. In reverse chronological order,
  • Laptops are shipped from manufacturer’s warehouse to organization’s warehouse
  • Different components of the laptop are assembled. To name a few, these components include motherboard, RAM, hard disk, screen, keyboard, CD / DVD drive.
  • Each of these components would be shipped from manufacturing location to assembly location.
  • Each of these components would go through their manufacturing process.
  • Each of these components require metals, fossil fuels, water and other chemicals.
  • Metals and fossil fuels are extracted from their respective locations and shipped.

The mining activity carried out in order to extract various metals required for production consumes about 7% to 10% of world energy consumption. To add, manufacturing of a 2 gram memory chip requires about 1.7 Kg of fossil fuels & chemicals and about 36 Kg of water. Now, think of the number of chips present in a laptop or desktop PC.
So, shall we stop using laptops and desktop PCs? No, the idea is not going back to the Stone Age, but to consciously adopt technology that has a lesser impact on the environment and then use it for things like telecommuting, reducing paper usage etc. to make up for the environmental damage caused during production.
However, there might be an argument saying business is not entirely about the environment, what about bottom line? As I mentioned above, reducing travel, paper usage etc reduces the operational expenses of the organization.

Talking about Green IT Asset Management, involving environmental considerations in each of the lifecycle phase right from planning to buy eco-friendly IT products to appropriate end-of-life treatment can lead to a significant reduction in CO2 emission as well as lower the Total Cost of Ownership (or TCO) for the assets. For example*, buying 1 Energy-Star certified computer as compared to a conventional computer (Considering no initial cost difference, 4 years of life and $0.103/KWH for electricity rate) can lead to cost saving of approx. $51, energy saving of 550 KWH and 847 lbs of CO2 emission reduction. These numbers are without considering any additional efforts for power management etc. Scaling up these numbers in the context of large organizations can lead to considerable cost and environmental savings, achieved just by procuring eco-friendly products. Needless to say, these advantages are in addition to those obtained by employing techniques like power management, recycling etc.

This requires taking the entire lifecycle of IT assets into account as the first step in the journey towards “Greener” IT. Below is the typical lifecycle of an IT asset:




I will talk about “Green” considerations in each of the lifecycle phases in detail in subsequent blogs which I will be posting every Monday. Wishing you a “Green” week till then!  Smile

* Numbers based on calculations carried out by Energy-Star.