Cost Savings

Our primary intent in this book is to show you how adopting Green IT practices can save your business potentially millions of dollars over current practices. Of course, we also want to encourage you to adopt ecologically responsible practices, so that we don't wind up living on a cinder with no atmosphere. Oh yeah, we'd also like to avoid getting cancer from drinking groundwater. But even if you have absolutely no interest in helping the environment, the changes in business processes, practices, and behavior outlined in this book can have an overwhelmingly positive impact on your business.

Can a company be green and churn a healthy profit? Are these two concepts contradictory? Not at all. Even better, not only are they not contradictory, one actually builds on the other. By lessening your organization's impact on the environment, you're going to spend more—at first. After that, you save money—you save a lot of money.

The number-one reason businesses either decide to go green or are prevented from going green is cost. Unless equipment is planned to be replaced or there's a datacenter design in the works, most businesses aren't likely to replace their equipment just for the sake of duty to society. But when the cost of power starts taking a bigger and bigger bite out of the IT budget, organizations start really looking at green computing, according to research by Forrester.


There are a number of ways that specific hardware and hardware deployments can affect the environment—and your bottom line. The biggest way you can reduce your impact on the environment and the amount of money you're paying for hardware is to simply buy less equipment. We'll talk more about virtualization in Chapter 12, but let's talk a little about the benefits to reducing the amount of hardware you use.

Taking the Steps, Reaping the Rewards

Consider the savings that Nashville's Vanderbilt University and the state of Oregon are going to experience. Both groups have begun datacenter virtualization projects (as of early 2008) and expect to save millions of dollars by the time the projects are finished.

Vanderbilt's Information Technology Services organization is using server virtualization to reduce its energy use. By reducing the number of physical servers they're using, they save money and they do less damage to the environment. They have virtualized 35 percent of the servers they manage, which is the equivalent of saving 20,575 watts per hour. The organization's goal is to get up to 80 percent virtualization on its servers.

The state of Oregon is taking on an even bigger project. It is combining 11 separate state agency datacenters by June 2009. The centers will be combined into a new center in the state capital, Salem, and will combine both servers and storage. The project costs US$43 million up front, but will save US$12 million per year after that, and will reduce power consumption by up to 35 percent.

Use What You Have

Although purchasing new, energy-efficient equipment is a good idea, it's only a good idea if you actually need new equipment. If you have old computers that can be repurposed, you've just administered a one-two punch. You don't have to recycle anything and you don't have to spend money on something new.

For instance, you can take an older computer and turn it into a thin client. With a thin client, the processing and storage duties are conducted at the server. The client just needs enough power to be able to display what is going on at the server.

If you don't like the idea of having old equipment in use—even as a thin client—consider still using the thin-client model, just buy new thin clients. On average, a thin client uses 15 watts of energy instead of the 150 watts that workstations use, as shown next. If you deploy them across your organization, your energy bill will be ten times less than what it is now.

Conventional PC

Watts used-PC versus Thin Client

Conventional PC

Watts used-PC versus Thin Client

NOTE We talk more about thin clients in Chapter 8.


Let's look at the numbers. Buying computers and then disposing of them is a one-time issue— you pick out the computers, you buy them, and you're done. When it's time to get rid of the computers, you find a responsible recycler, you hand them over, and you're done. But the issue of power consumption is ongoing. In fact, you'll be reminded of it every month when the electrical bill shows up.

NOTE Actually, your facilities manager will be reminded of it. Unless he or she shares the electrical bill with you each month, you may live blissfully unaware of how much electricity you use.

The issue of power consumption is important on two levels. First, consider your bottom line. The more power you use, the more money you spend. Next, consider the issue on an environmental level. The more power you use, the more fossil fuels the local electrical utility has to burn, thus causing more greenhouse gases to be generated.


Power can be managed easily enough throughout your user base, just be sure to enable power management settings.

Consider this: An average desktop PC requires 85 watts just to idle, even with the monitor off. If that computer is only in use or idling for 40 hours a week instead of a full 168, over US$40 in energy costs will be saved annually from that workstation alone. Think about the savings that can be recognized if those savings are multiplied by thousands of computers across your organization.


Networked computers are the backbone of business, but the growth in servers and network infrastructure has caused a sharp spike in the electrical usage in the datacenter. Power consumption per rack has risen from 1 kW in 2000 to 8 kW in 2006 and is expected to top 20 kW in 2010, as shown next.

kWh Per Rack

This 20-fold demand in energy consumption isn't just due to more servers. A lot of the increase comes from the additional network infrastructure needed to support additional servers. Of the US$29 billion spent each year on server power and cooling, just 30 percent actually goes to the IT load.

Consider a 24-port Ethernet switch. On the low end, it uses 250 watts of power (most switches use more) and it is in continuous use. Each 1U rack switch uses 2,190 kW each year. If the electricity generated to power this switch comes from a coal-fired plant, 1,780 pounds of coal are needed to produce the 2,190 kW, as illustrated next.


Each rackmounted switch uses 250 watts of power, which uses...

1,780 pounds of coal

Two tons of carbon dioxide

1,780 pounds of coal

Two tons of carbon dioxide

Burning 1,780 pounds of coal releases over two tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, along with other pollutants, such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide.

Unless CIOs do something to change that trend, 100 billion kWh will require the equivalent of 15 new power plants to be constructed. It would churn out as much as 47 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.

NOTE That's not exactly true. We wouldn't have to build that many power plants—they can't be built that quickly anyway. Instead of building all those power plants, we could just have brownouts and rolling blackouts during peak usage times.

The EPA has suggested a number of ways in which datacenters can be more energy efficient, ranging from properly organizing physical space to reduce cooling loads to using energy-efficient power supplies.

Higher energy-efficient power supplies can lower your datacenter's electrical bill dramatically. Annual savings of US$2700 to US$6500 per rack are possible simply by moving to energy-efficient power supplies.

The ideal power supplies are at least 80 percent efficient. Supplies reaching that level of efficiency are certified as 80 Plus. To get an idea of what you can save by using an 80 Plus certified power supply, go to There, you'll see a calculator like the one in Figure 1-4.

The calculator allows you to enter the number of 80 Plus certified computers and servers your organization is using, and then it allows you to put in the average price for electricity (expressed in kWh). A link to the calculator can be found at listed as Link 1-2.

Figure 1-4 A calculator at the 80 Plus website can show you how much money you can save by using energy efficient power supplies in your computers.

Now, this isn't an expressly scientific model of how much you'll save if you adopt overall green strategies, but with a couple clicks of the mouse, you can see approximately how much money you'd save if you use equipment that is 80 Plus certified.

Although it would be great for all organizations to altruistically embrace the notion of going green, that isn't happening. As such, it's up to the government to legislate ethical behavior for companies and individuals. Governments around the world have their own rules and regulations governing the handling of electronic equipment. In the next chapter we'll take a closer look at what rules are on the books around the world.


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