Energy-efficient tech aids agency cost savings, report says

Public and private sectors lower energy consumption through consolidation and technology

Many public- and private-sector IT managers are getting the message: Energy-efficient IT programs are good for business, according to a new report by CDW Government.

Three-quarters of the organizations surveyed are working to reduce energy use in IT operations, and two-thirds of respondents said understanding best practices for energy-efficient IT is critical to their success, according to CDW-G’s 2010 Energy Efficient IT Report.

Organizations are consolidating data centers and deploying technology in innovative ways to reduce energy consumption, including deploying more power-efficient switches and using the network as a platform to manage energy use.

Still, many managers struggle to find funds for energy-efficient IT programs, the report states.

It is based on a survey conducted in July of 756 IT professionals who are responsible for buying IT equipment. CDW-G talked to IT professionals in business; federal, state and local government; and K-12 and higher education.

“Energy efficiency is no longer an afterthought but a key requirement in many organizations’ IT purchasing plans,” said Norm Lillis, vice president of system solutions at CDW. Excess energy consumption is a drain on budgets and limits the ability of IT managers to provide more and better IT services to employees and customers, especially as aging data centers approach the limits of their power resources, he added.

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Seventy-four percent of the organizations in the survey have or are developing programs to manage and reduce IT energy use. Of that group, 56 percent have reduced their IT energy costs by 1 percent or more — up from 39 percent in 2008, the first year CDW-G conducted its energy-efficiency survey.

But despite the potential for saving costs in the long run, agencies and other organizations are frequently reluctant to fund energy-efficient IT programs. Managers say they have too little money for new, more efficient IT systems after meeting internal client demands, the report states. They also said senior managers gives higher priority to investments in other areas.

Cost concerns might be more perception than reality. When asked specifically about upfront costs, just 17 percent of IT managers said they believe the cost of energy-efficient IT equipment is prohibitive, the report states.

The report includes findings specific to each of the industry groups surveyed, including their participation in energy-efficiency programs and the results. The groups surveyed break down into medium and large businesses (150), federal government (150), state and local government (154), kindergarten to 12th grade (150), and higher education (152).

Among federal IT managers:

  • 78 percent have or are developing programs to reduce energy use in IT.
  • 56 percent have reduced IT energy costs by 1 percent or more.
  • 21 percent have flattened or reduced IT energy use.
  • 81 percent said their agencies have or are developing strategies for consolidating their data centers.
  • 76 percent are familiar with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star Rating for Data Centers program.
  • 17 percent track power usage effectiveness (PUE), the core measurement for EPA's program.

At the time the survey was conducted, 57 percent of the federal managers had submitted a comprehensive Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan to the Office of Management and Budget, and 59 percent had met the June 30 deadline to submit an initial data center consolidation plan to OMB.

To achieve further success, respondents said senior managers must give higher priority to investing in energy efficiency and the people who pay the data center energy bills must start paying attention to IT's energy use.

At the state and local level, 62 percent of the IT managers said their organizations have or are developing energy-efficiency programs for IT. Sixty-four percent have reduced IT energy costs by 1 percent or more, while 14 percent have flattened or reduced IT energy use. However, the increasing price of electricity continues to drive up IT energy costs.

Turning the spotlight on data centers, 77 percent of the state and local managers have or are developing strategies for data center consolidation. Sixty-eight percent are familiar with EPA’s Energy Star rating program, but only 11 percent track PUE.

Remaining barriers include a lack of funds for more efficient systems after meeting internal client demands and, as in the case of federal managers, educating the people who pay the energy bills to focus on IT energy use.

To continue to reduce energy consumption, CDW-G recommends that organizations use the free EPA and Energy Department programs and tools to assess data center improvements and track efficiency metrics. IT managers should also invest in LCD monitors, low-power servers and computers, and power-efficient switches. Moreover, organizations should recognize and reward managers’ efforts to reduce energy consumption as part of their overall performance evaluations.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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