How Green Is Your IT? (With Kevin McGilloway)

For organizations yearning to become greener while also reducing costs, Information Technology may be an unexpected place to find relief. But it should be one of the first places you look.As energy costs soar, companies are beginning to understand the implications of managing (or mismanaging) IT-related power consumption. For example, the cost of powering a desktop computer over its life can exceed its initial price, with over 70% of this cost coming from when the PC is not being used. A focused strategy to reduce power consumption not only will bring costs down but your company's carbon footprint as well. There are two pieces to the solution: the easy part, technology, and the hard part, organizational change. The technological answer is a combination of many things, such as buying new, lower-power equipment like LCD/LED displays instead of the old cathode ray tubes. These new devices quickly pay for themselves in terms of power saved, many in under a year. Another is to follow the tide toward the creation of "on-demand" capacity by "virtualizing" your IT infrastructure. Over the years many functions, regions, and departments have built up their own fiefdoms of local capacity (often servers and unique software configurations). Today, it is possible create large server clusters easily, with users paying only for what they actually utilize, and allowing significant standardization of the software environment.

Following this approach, one global insurance company recently enjoyed -- 1million per year in net savings on power consumption alone -- with additional millions in decreased cost arising from doubling their current average utilization of hardware, and lower maintenance costs. Leadership loved the fact that they simultaneously improved efficiency, enhanced service quality, and reduced operational risk -- while becoming more green.

Organizationally there are many understandable excuses for lethargy, and some less visible roadblocks. For example, the incremental cost associated with the initial implementation of a lower-energy IT strategy sits in the CIO's budget, while the power savings often show up in the Chief Administrative Officer's facilities plan. Even more pervasively, people are unaware of their computers, printers, scanners, and fax machines as things that should be turned off at all, mistakenly thinking that a screen saver is an acceptable alternative to turning off a device for a long weekend. Also, it is the rare purchasing department that understands total cost of ownership of new technology -- including energy outlay -- so it is no wonder that cheaper, power-hogging, devices easily slide into a company's IT base, with the multi-year power premium buried alongside air-conditioning, heat, and snow-removal.

So the questions, with significant financial and "good corporate citizenship" implications, are:

Does your organization even know what its IT power consumption is? Does your leadership care? Does your organization understand the solution opportunities? Are you organized to take action?

(This entry is also at conversationstarter.hbsp.org)

Open Wireless Dawns at Last: Or why the 700MHz auction matters to everyone

Members vs Customers: How the Obama and Clinton Online Campaigns Differ