Green IT grows as economy slows: more efficient operations become the goal of enterprises with shrinking budgets.
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has a long history of environmental stewardship and has been honored with dozens of environmental awards for supporting energy conservation, recycling and waste reduction.
"Going green isn't just good for the environment, it's good business," says George Wright, vice president, USPS information technology operations. Over the past three years, the USPS IT department has implemented a program to reduce power consumption at its data centers using virtualization, which has enabled the government agency to eliminate more than 1,600 servers--for a savings of more than $2 million last year. The Postal Service also converted 40 percent of workstations to power-saving monitors and replaced outdated equipment with energy-efficient models, earning rebates of more than $250,000 from power companies.
"Using technology in creative ways has helped the Postal Service reduce energy consumption levels in facilities, use less paper, lower the time that computers stay turned on and reduce travel costs," says Wright.
The buzz surrounding green IT has grown steadily in the past few years, but the recent worldwide economic downturn has led to some uncertainty about how companies would continue to support green initiatives.
While 2009 is expected to be a year of belt-tightening, a recent survey by Forrester Research indicates that the slowing economy will not derail efforts to make IT operations more energy efficient. "The economy will not stall green IT efforts," says Christopher Mines, senior vice president, Forrester.
Green IT has become a priority to many businesses today, as they are faced with shrinking budgets, sprawling infrastructure footprints and increased waste-disposal regulations, according to Vamshi Mokshagundam, a technology analyst at Datamonitor. Three-quarters of chief information officers surveyed by Datamonitor said eco-friendly computing is an important part of their IT strategy, with 15 percent saying it is their top priority. "Green IT is now being driven as much by an element of business strategy as by a sense of corporate social responsibility," says Mokshagundam.
In fact, Forrester expects implementation of green initiatives in enterprise IT organizations to accelerate, because technologies like virtualization, energy-efficient hardware and cloud computing can deliver immediate or near-term cost savings. "This is a significant opportunity for IT organizations to implement green IT," says Mines.
While the environment was the initiating factor in most sustainability initiatives, today's green IT projects are focused primarily on lowering energy costs. IDC polled more than 1,500 business and technology executives and found that lowering energy costs is a major reason behind green IT adoption. Among U.S. respondents, 77 percent identified energy savings as the most important factor.
Forrester recommends that IT leadership first take advantage of minimal capital investment opportunities, such as power management, hot-aisle/cold-aisle architecture in the data center and retiring underutilized applications and hardware. The USPS, for example, reduced the number of stand-alone printers through networking and decreased the number of pages printed by switching to double-sided printing.
Then there are larger-scale capital investments, such as a thin client architecture, server virtualization or data center site consolidation, which can offer considerable savings over time. In some cases, efficiency gains can be achieved by outsourcing applications through software as a service, or SaaS, along with cloud computing and other managed services. By outsourcing some applications, the cost savings of shutting down some servers can help offset the cost of purchasing more efficient servers for applications that remain in-house.
Communications News' GreenTech column focuses on a variety of issues concerning the green IT movement. You can contact Associate Editor Denise DiRamio at email@example.com.