Monday, March 17, 2008

IT Departments are Wearin' the Green

It takes more these days that mere luck o' the Irish to keep information technology costs under control. Many companies are finding that going green can help them keep more green in their coffers. In this case green means environmentally friendly, things that help keep the Earth nice and green as well as help businesses save money.

The first to look for the proverbial pot of gold is in the power being pulled from the grid. What's insidious about power consumption is that it consists of dribs and drabs almost everywhere. All those desktop PCs quietly sitting on desks are fractional amperes each. Watts become Watt-Hours and then Kilowatt-Hours of consumption. If all of that electricity was going into productive activities the cost would easily be swamped out by the profits gained. But it's not. Much of the time computers are idle, people are away from their desks. But the electrons still flow from the wall and you pay for every one of them.

Many companies decided long ago that turning off idle computers and monitors overnight and letting them sleep during the day saved far more money than it cost in shortening the life of the equipment. Truth be told, it's hard to cycle a PC enough to destroy it before it becomes obsolete. Most go to the recycler still working just fine. You do call the recycler when you want to get rid of old PCs and other electronics, don't you? Those circuit boards and CRTs are chock full of toxic substances that can be reclaimed and reused before they escape to poison the water table.

Back to power consumption. In turning off equipment when it is not being used, preferably with a mechanical switch that interrupts the phantom or standby power that nearly everything electronic draws, has a double benefit. It reduces power drawn by the device and also the need to get rid of heat that it generates. Nothing is 100% efficient. When power is brought in, most is used to do important work but some just goes up in heat. Even LCD monitors that don't have fans still run slightly warm to the touch. Incandescent lights are the worst offenders of all. All those lumens of light you want are accompanied by BTUs of heat that you don't. Some office buildings never need to run their furnaces during the work day. They get their heating the expensive way, as a byproduct of electricity consumption.

Nowhere is the heat issue more obvious that in the server room. As more and more cores are packed into less and less space, the heat load of equipment racks goes up and up. More and more air conditioning is needed to deal with the heat rejection. It's a viscious circle. The problem has gotten so intense, so to speak, that equipment designers are starting to focus on higher efficiency power supplies and even things like DC power distribution.

Perhaps you don't need a server room at all. Heresy? Actually it may be more cost effective to locate your equipment at a colocation facility where the cost of power and environmental control can be amortized over many users. An additional benefit of colo facilities is that you may also find much better deals on bandwidth.

Still can't get power consumption low enough? Perhaps you should be generating some of your own. Those big flat empty office building and factory roofs are perfect for rows of solar cells. With a PV array powering a grid connected inverter, you'll be using less grid power during the heat (and light) of the day when it is most expensive. Google is just one of a growing number of companies that is supplementing it's electricity needs with solar power.

Is it time to upgrade your facilities with more efficient computing equipment? Let our network of value added resellers help you find the best deals on servers and network devices that can also help you save the green in more than one way.

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