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Eco warriors

Eco warriors

These CIOs show it is possible to cut costs in their ICT shops, improve efficiency and save the planet all at the same time.

ANZ Bank: Goodbye screensavers Australia and New Zealand Banking Group made headlines earlier this year when it banned screensavers across its 31,000 PCs.

Darren Baird, the head of technology experience at ANZ, says the use of screensavers was preventing those screens from switching off while unused. The result: The software would continue to draw power from the CPU, rather than allowing it to remain idle.

The bank expects to save at least A$500,000 a year following the ban, equating to 4 per cent of its total energy consumption, and eliminating 5000 tonnes of greenhouse emissions.

“It was an early win — something quite obvious, but also something quite visible that we could use to promote how technology is on board with this,” says Baird.

The next step is to look at using centralised management to force machines into hibernation mode at night, which should save a further 4 per cent of energy costs. A pilot programme is underway.

Baird says while there is no reason why these steps could not have been taken sooner, climate change has become a more prominent topic for the bank in the past six months. The bank is already speaking to its main desktop suppliers, Dell and HP, regarding industry best practice and the steps the bank can take to meet or better them.

ANZ is three-quarters of the way through a programme of switching from CRT monitors to LCD flat screens, as these consume half the power. The bank is also looking at its server infrastructure in terms of consolidation, including the possibility of using virtualisation to reduce its server numbers.

“We’re looking at opportunity after opportunity,” says Baird. “This is like a freight train — you won’t be able to stop it. There’s been overwhelming applause, from managing directors through to people at their desks. People love a cause and this is something that has become more animated and more appreciated than anything else I have seen in 15 years.”

Sustainability Victoria: Power caps

In many cases, the companies reducing their IT power consumption are precisely the ones that should be doing so anyway. One example is Sustainability Victoria, a government agency designed to work with business and the community to show the way on more sustainable living.

Sustainability Victoria’s project manager IT, Patrick O’Brien, says merging three parts of the organisation into a new building in October 2006 gave it the opportunity to improve the energy efficiency of its IT infrastructure.

He says the organisation was initially daunted by the options presented by its suppliers, but settled on IBM BladeCentre servers and using virtualisation technology from Microsoft.

O’Brien believes the organisation is close to reaching its target of cutting energy use by 50 per cent. He expects to achieve greater savings through the use of IBM’s power management tools. This will give Sustainability Victoria new capabilities, such as powering down unused servers and capping total power consumption.

“We’re really exploring all aspects,” says O’Brien. “There is a corporate responsibility, but the awareness seems to be with the individuals.

“Once people become aware, they really get excited about it and are continually coming up with new ideas. Each one of these may be a very small idea, but you put them together and it can make a difference.”

CLP Power: Optimising usage

If green IT includes cutting power use, then organisations need to start measuring power consumption of IT operations as a whole. If they cannot monitor it, then they probably cannot control it either.

This is exactly what Hong Kong’s largest power company CLP Power is doing in its holistic, green-IT approach, which covers both the data centre and end-user PCs and printers.

“Our green programme comprises directives for optimising the use of energy, with targets and personal accountability,” says Joe Locandro, director, group IT. “Regular measurements, followed by fine tuning are necessary to achieve continuous improvement.” CLP saves a significant amount of power by turning electrical equipment off when not in use. “We encourage employees to shut down their PCs outside of working hours,” says Andre Blumberg, CLP’s group IT manager, technology and architecture. “Office lighting is turned off at 7pm and every subsequent hour, so staff working late have to switch it back on manually. In the data centre, we power off all cold standby and retired hardware and switch off lighting as far as possible.”

The waste reduction policy should be as broad-based as possible. “We consolidate and reduce the number of printers, using a printing-management system to monitor volumes and types of prints made by individuals to better monitor consumables and printer lifecycles,” says Blumberg. “We measure consumables, including non-rechargeable batteries and printer consumables, and paper, recycled as well. We also record our donations of computers and other equipment to charities.”

One energy-efficiency initiative by CLP comprised putting end-user desktop PCs and LCD screens into standby mode when they are not in use. “It is easy to implement standby operations, for example, through centralised Group Active Directory policies,” says Blumberg, “And it is amazing to see how much energy can be saved by this procedure.”

Walt Disney: Global standards

High power costs and the risk of power disruptions in some regions is one of the drivers behind a programme in recent years to consolidate Walt Disney’s global data centres into a smaller number of international sites.

“We had IT systems at about 60 locations globally,” says Eugene Liew, senior manager, international infrastructure, Walt Disney International Information Services. “For example, in the Asia-Pacific, we had them in Malaysia, Taiwan, Bangkok, two in South Korea, at least four sites in Australia and many more. In this region, we are now down to one centre each in Australia, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore. In another year and a half, we will have reduced this to two centres, in Hong Kong and Singapore.”

Liew is not simply consolidating operations across the board. Instead, he looks at individual IT functions and implements global standards to maintain quality of service and reliability — while reducing support costs. He has a three-stage plan.

“First we’ll consolidate all the messaging and collaboration services worldwide into a few centres,” says Liew. “Second, this will be followed by line-of-business applications, such as human resources, finance and legal. Third, we will consolidate database services.”

Liew has started with communications. “We are standardising on Active Directory and Exchange Messaging, running on the Microsoft Exchange platform. Previously we had email servers at every little office, now we have much more powerful servers providing regional services.” 

Sidebar:

Hit the switch

• Screensavers use power and prevent the processor or screen switching into sleep mode. Turning them off saves significant power.

• Remote management systems can be used to set policies to force computers into hibernation or shutdown when unattended.

• Switching from CRTs to flat screens will halve power consumption when computers are in use.

• Clustering or virtualisation can be used to consolidate the number of servers, reducing data centre energy consumption.

• Any reduction in server numbers will also result in a reduction in heat produced — thus reducing the power needed for cooling systems.

• Newer storage systems store more data for equivalent energy consumption. Brad Howarth

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Tags datacentreglobal warmingclimate changestoragegreen ITconsolidation

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